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Bond Issue Would Expand, Renovate Upper Arlington Libraries

Voters in Upper Arlington go to the polls May 5th to decide Issue 4. That's a $25 million bond issue that would renovate and expand the city's library facilities. Supporters say the average homeowner would only pay $8.66 more a month. Critics say the proposal needs closer scrutiny.

A spokesperson for the library says the Upper Arlington system lent nearly 2 million books and other items last year. But the facilities are aging says the library's director. Ann Moore runs through a list of things she says need to be repaired or replaced.

"For example our fire alarm system is no longer, it's way out of date," says Moore. "We can't get parts for it. We have lights that were installed in the 1980s that are inadequate and burn a lot of energy. We have some heating equipment that's 40 years old." The building, Moore says, also needs to be upgraded to permit easier access for the disabled. The bond issue, she says, is also about anticipating needs for the next quarter century.

"It's to make the building safer but it's also to reorganize the building so it's more efficient and it's to plan for 25 years, this isn't something that's just going to take us five years down the road."

The library is asking Upper Arlington voters to approve a $25 million bond issue. If it passes, the owner of a $300,000 home would pay an extra $100 a year.

Plans call for a second story to be added to the main library on Tremont Road. The library board also wants to build more meeting rooms for community use. But there's opposition from a group called Citizens for Change in Upper Arlington. They're opposed to many of the library board's plans.

"We believe that there's a myth that's been created in the city of Upper Arlington that there's this great pent-up demand for all this meeting space and there's never been a report that's been generated to show what that need is."

Dan McCormick represents Citizens for Change. He says his group is not convinced of the need for many of the library board's proposals. He says the ideas read more like a wish list.

"Most of everything that they're trying to accomplish with this involves putting a second story on a building in a community that hasn't grown in the last 15 years and as we looked through their consultants' reports and their library minutes we saw a lot of wish lists of what they'd like to see there but we didn't move that into a classification of being truly a need for the community," says McCormick.

McCormick says fireplaces and a coffee shop are on the list. Director Ann Moore says the coffee shop, in reality, will be a group of vending machines with chairs and small tables nearby. About the fireplaces, Moore says:

"They are an option that's out there. We put one in the Miller Park library a couple of years ago and frankly people absolutely love it. I mean, we're talking about $15,000 for a fireplace out of $25 million."

Moore says she thinks the poor economy means the library expansion might come in under budget. Meanwhile the Citizens for Change in Upper Arlington don't believe the expansion will bear close scrutiny. "We've not made a big issue about the difficult economic times," McCormick says. "We think the merits of this library expansion ought to stand on its own and even if these were great economic times I think it would be good to be asking the questions that we're asking and raising the issues that we're asking."

Library Director Ann Moore:

"We've adapted and bandaided and made things - cobbled things together - but we're at the point where we can't do that any more," Moore says. "And it's a waste of money to do it even if we would think we could."

Upper Arlington voters will cast their ballots for or against Issue 4 on May 5th.