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Council moves to 2nd phase of library project

By William Hoover
Anvil Herald Correspondent

Hondo City Council on Monday stopped short of committing to a 12% tax increase, but still approved a $128,961.50 contract with CDS Muery for design development, construction documents, bid and bidding phase services for the new Hondo Public Library. The new, 12,000 square-foot library and community center, to be built across from Memorial Square, has an estimated cost of $3 million.

The city has agreed to commit to funding the library with $1.65 million of Certificates of Obligation – if the Library Steering Committee can come up with $600,0000 in donations. The rest of the money would come from grants and the sale of the existing library building.

The $125,000 a year debt service on the $1.65 million in COs would cause an increase in taxes of about 4.9 cents per $100 property valuation, which amounts to a 12% increase of the tax rate. The current tax rate is $.4089 per $100 valuation.

“Before you tonight is the proposal that outlines the cost of services, broken down for all the phases of library development and building project,” said Assistant City Manager Kim Davis. “Council funded phase one of this project in May.”

“The action tonight would be moving forward with phase two of the project,” she added. “The design development phase would include all the engineering and architectural costs associated with the final design of the building, the creation of construction documents and bidding the project.”

Engineering firm representative John Rothe and architect Debra Dockery were both present at the council meeting to answer questions.

Mayor Jim Danner noted Library Director Dorothy Schorp was also present to observe the vote and invited her to comment on the proposal.

“It is nice to see us moving forward with this,” said Schorp. “I feel like all the instrumental groundwork has been laid.”

Place 1 Councilman John McAnelly began the discussion by asking the library designers if the water tower, shown on the current rendering of the library building, was a functioning rainwater collection system. “If not, does it have to be there? That is what one of my constituents asked me,” he said.

“If the water tank is put in, it will collect rainwater and can be used for landscape irrigation,” said Dockery. “We think it is nice signage for the library. But, obviously, it is not on the building so it can be separate.”

“The current $3 million cost projection includes the water tower, but not the rainwater collection or watering system,” explained City Manager Jeff Litchfield. “We do believe there will be grant funds available to provide for the watering system, but it is outside the $3 million.” He said people can designate their donations to go to the watering system, not just towards the library.

“The present plan is to not put in the watering system unless we have a grant or donation for that,” added Mayor Jim Danner.

“Same thing with solar energy,” added Litchfield. “There are some solar energy options to be provided.”

“Will this get us the plans to go ahead and hire contractors?” asked Place 3 Councilman Eric Torres.

“This takes us to bidding stage,” said Davis.

So far, the city has only expended donated monies from the city’s designated library funds on the project, noted Litchfield.

“Up to this point, we have not spent any of our general fund or debt,” he said. “That fund started with the librarian who left us some funds when she passed away in the 1990s.”

“After this phase, in three or four months, I expect we will come back and have a hard cost so we know for sure what the library is going to cost,” he added. “We will also know how much in funds the library groups were able to raise.”

“Then, at that point, we will make our commitment?” asked McAnelly.

“Yes,” said Litchfield. “We’d be committing $500,000 from the sale of the existing building and the issuance of $1,650,000 or so in COs.”

“If we approve this tonight, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to go through with the project, right?” asked Place 5 Councilman Johnny Villa.

“No,” answered Litchfield. “We are not obligated to issue the debt tonight. If the cost comes back way over budget, we are not obligated.

“But, I do think it shows intent if we commit $128,000 and move into the bidding stage,” he added. “It is our thought at this time that we will move forward.”

Villa said his only remaining concern was being able to sell the existing library building for $500,000.

“Do we have a potential buyer right now?” he asked.

“We do not,” said Litchfield. “We would either do a bridging loan or we would have to fund that ourselves. It will take a year or so to build the library, so we could sell it contingent upon completion. But we don’t think it would be prudent to sell the building before we have another place to go.”

“It is appraised at $600,000 or so,” said Danner.

“What if the $600,000 in donations from the library groups doesn’t materialize,” asked Villa.

“We would know that then,” said Litchfield. “That is the challenge to the groups.”

“We would only commit to the $1.65 million,” said Danner.

“We don’t come forth until they get it,” added Litchfield. “If four months from now we have a project that comes in under $3 million and the Friends of the Library and the associated folks have raised the $600,000, do we move forward? That is the question.”

“What is at stake tonight is $128,000,” said Danner.

“When we have the low bidder, we can go through that bid and look for value engineering options,” said Rothe of possible cost reductions. “Or if we see some way to revamp the project a little bit, there are things we don’t necessarily have to have. We would have that opportunity at that time.”

Torres offered the motion to authorize the city manager to enter into a contract with CDS Muery for phase two design services for development of the Hondo Public Library Project. Place 2 Councilman Sammy Nooner seconded the motion, which passed 3-1 over the dissent of Villa. Place 5 Councilwoman Ann-Michelle Long was absent from the meeting.

In related business, council also voted 3-1, with Villa again opposing, to approve a budget amendment allocating $128,962 from the library fund to pay for the design services to be provided by CDS Muery.

 


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