In Weber County, library use is at an all-time high, but sorely needed upgrades and expansions have been put off for years. In a special vote-by-mail election on June 25, voters will decide whether those improvements can happen.
On the table is a $45 million bond that will provide for
• Renovation and upgrades of the historic main library at 2464 Jefferson in Ogden
• Replacement of the southwest branch in Roy with a larger, more modern facility
• Expansion and modernization of the North Ogden branch
• The addition of more street parking at the Ogden Valley branch in Huntsville.
For Weber County homeowners based on a $161,000 home it means a property tax increase of $13.50 per year. The bond is structured to piggyback off of the 1998 jail bond, which added $18 a year to property taxes, and expires in January 2018. However, after that date, residents will continue to pay $31.50 to cover the library until its 20-year term ends.
The tax on commercial and business properties of equivalent value ($161,000) would increase $24.43 per year, expanding to $57.27 in 2018, when the jail bond expires.
"This is the third time we've put together a capital plan, and each time it's taken a back seat to real needs in the county," said Lynnda Wangsgard, who has directed Weber County's library system since 1983.
Wangsgard acknowledged that the $45 million is "a shocking sticker price," but added that interest rates are at historic lows. And since 2005, library use has increased 63 percent.
Ogden's main branch at 2464 Jefferson, which opened in 1968, serves as a popular gathering place for kids, families and seniors. However, in recent years, flooding and electrical problems surfaced as important issues that have to be addressed. Those upgrades will cost an estimated $16.8 million.
"There is no other place left in America where people have this opportunity to gather and be 'alone together' or 'together together,' depending on their need that day," Wangsgard said.
The North Ogden branch, built in 1983, remains unfinished to this day of its 23,000 square feet, only 11,000 can be used. An estimated $5 million would double its usable size.
About $23 million would be used to build a new facility to replace the small but popular Southwest branch in Roy. It first opened in 1976, and in 2012 attracted 222,234 visitors.
Of the $45 million, $165,000 would be used to add parking at the Ogden Valley branch in Huntsville. The facility lost use of an auxiliary lot in 2008 and currently has only 28 parking stalls but serves thousands of customers each year.
So far, the Weber County elections office has mailed out 104,000 ballots to registered voters to participate in this special election.
"This is the first time the entire election is being done by mail," said Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch. The aim of vote-by-mail is to increase education and participation, Hatch added.
"It proactively places the ballot in the voter's hands several weeks before the election," Hatch said, "an active reminder that gives the voter a chance to research and look before they step up to the voting machine."
Ballots must be postmarked by June 24, 2013. Voters also have the option of dropping them off or voting by machine at one of six locations on June 25.
Drop-off locations for June 25 vote-by-mail ballots
Marriott-Slaterville City Offices • 1570 W. 400 North
North Ogden City Offices • 505 E. 2600 North
Ogden Valley Branch Library • 131 S. 7400 East, Huntsville
Roy Municipal Building • 5051 S. 1900 West
South Ogden Municipal Building • 3950 S. Adams Ave.
Weber Center • 2380 Washington Blvd., Ogden