A planned Manhattan Beach Library expansion may be long overdue, but it couldn't have come at a better time, say City Council members.
The renovation work, which will increase the size of the current building from 12,000 to 22,000 square feet, will add an additional floor and upgrade some of the building's interior.
At a recent meeting, City Council approved the hiring of an architect to plan the renovation of the library and help pin down its total cost. Council members seemed eager to get behind a county-funded project that benefits residents of all ages.
"We gotta run with this," Councilwoman Portia Cohen said. "There's an opportunity to spend money that we can't spend for anything else. This is some real good news and we need that right now. People need jobs; this is perfect."
According to a proposal presented to the council, the Los Angeles County Library will select an architect based on qualifications and fees. The county will then provide more detailed plans to the city to better estimate the construction cost.
The project will be funded by a series of bonds issued by the county on its excess library services property tax funds. Manhattan Beach residents belong to the L.A. County Library District. As such, they pay yearly library service fees as part of their property taxes, explained County Librarian Margaret Todd. As of July 10, 2009, the county has estimated Manhattan Beach's total reserved funds at $4.3 million.
"You've had a large excess for the past five years that we've been setting aside," Todd told the council. "That's how you've come close to the $5 million mark."
The intial cost estimate when the project was first proposed a couple of years ago was $12-13 million. Todd said she wanted a tighter estimate of the construction costs to make sure that the county doesn't come up short in paying off the bonds.
"We have a certain amount of money from the county set aside for renovation," Todd said. "We have to be able to provide an accurate estimate. Because the process of expanding has a lot of complications in architectural designs, we'll need an architect to help us."
The council voted unanimously to approve her request. Some members questioned whether the state might "borrow" the city's property tax revenue set aside by the county. However, according to Todd, the state is unlikely to claim such local revenue this year.
"They already borrowed our property tax revenue last year, so they can't come back again is my understanding," Todd said. "I think we're safe for now."
Don Gould, manager of the Manhattan Beach Library, said the time is right to go forward with the expansion.
"Now is a good time to build it, because the building cost for materials is going down because of the economy," he said on Friday. "We have no idea whether the cost will go up anytime soon."
The council also approved the formation of a subcommittee to oversee the project. Council members Portia Cohen and Nick Tell volunteered to join the subcommittee.