The nearly 50 observers of a work session of the Newton City Commission, Newton Public Library Board and a public library task force Tuesday were greeted with a reminder of why the meeting occurred as they walked into the building.
A rendering of a new library has sat in the library's entrance for about 10 years. A decade ago, a plan was created to build a new library at Military Park. But there has never been money to fund the project and an inability to move it forward.
“It is time to get a new Newton Public Library on a time path,” said commissioner Barth Hague. “Whether it is 2021, 2022 is not important. It is getting on a schedule and not letting it languish at the bottom of a (capitol improvement plan) somewhere.”
Tuesday, Hague moved closer to his wish. The work session resulted in a consensus to place a request for proposals on the city commission agenda at the next commission meeting. That request would be created to seek out a consultant to move a project forward.
That yet-to-be named consultant would be asked to help with site selection, a feasibility review, concept development, funding sources, construction design and bidding the project.
“What is different this time around is part of the task is to develop a plan for funding,” Hague said. “It is different than our last go-around, which was to lay this at the city commission of the time's doorstep and say 'here it is, come up with the money.' This is maybe hindsight, but if there is anything that might improve this RFP from my perspective is to really nail that down in the expectations — that we need a funding plan as part of that campaign.”
Members of the library task force, city staff and library staff stated some private funding would be available, if it was clear that the project was going to move forward.
Under the proposal brought forward on Tuesday, the library would commit $65,000 each year, starting in 2021, toward debt service payments for bonds used for library improvements.
The timeline floated during the work session called for site selection this fall, with a feasibility study and concept development between September and December. A public funding campaign would begin as early as November.
It is unclear, however, just how quickly construction could begin. City commissioner Rod Kreie said the commission is looking at several community needs, and making them all fit together in the city budget is a challenge.
“We have to figure out where we can plug it in,” Kreie said. “Get it plugged in, that is part of the plan.”