Deadline swiftly approaching; residents voice displeasure
By Kristin Kjaero
September 7, 2015 (La Mesa) -- A controversy arose at the August 11 La Mesa City Council meeting when Friends of the La Mesa Library President John Schmitz noticed that a contract for the city to hire a consultant to conduct a Civic Center/Old Police Station Feasibility Study and Master Plan did not include a permanent library building. He requested that the Council add the library back in, as it was included in earlier Master Plans. Despite this omission, the Council approved the study as is, without the library.
The Council will review a Staff Report on the issue of "Interim" vs. "Permanent" library on its agenda for tomorrow at 4:00 p.m., in which Staff takes the position that the City is not obligated to build a "permanent" Library building.
On March 14, 2006 the City entered into an agreement with the County under which it purchased the old library site for $1, on which it built the current police station. In return, the City built the "interim" library and post office building now occupied by them (earmarked in the Civic Master Plan to become a future extension of City Hall), and promised to either begin constructing a "permanent" library building by March 2016 or pay the County the full market value the former library site as determined at March 14, 2018 value.
In addition, the City reimbursed the County up to $15,000 for moving expenses into the interim building, and assumed responsibility for maintenance of both interim and permanent library buildings. The Agreement is binding for 40 years.
Resident Patricia O'Reilly wrote to the Council of her disappointment in its decision, referring to a social contract with the community. She stated, "Now we are told the City has contracted for a feasibility study that does NOT include the library at all? That is inexcusable. At the very least ANY library decisions should be a part of any feasibility study so that we will ALL know what the choices could be and could ALL take part in a decision-making process."
The City's staff report takes the position that the City is not obligated to build a permanent facility because Clause 2.1.6 of the agreement states the construction of a permanent building is "subject to the availability and securing of sufficient local, state or federal funding."
Resident Laurise Gerk also wrote to the City Council, "We are taking the position that the building of the promised library is important, and should happen! Acquisition of funding aside, this was an agreement entered into between the City of La Mesa and the County of San Diego, and it should be honored. Not just because the larger library would be nice, which it would. But also because it was a promise made. An agreement entered. It is only right."
The City applied twice unsuccessfully for state library grants, however according to the Union-Tribune, "The city's proposal received high marks from the state, but La Mesa's project was bypassed for others and the money set aside for library construction ran out in 2004. A $600 million state bond measure that would have provided more money for library construction was rejected by voters in 2006."
The full staff report on this item can be found here, with Item 10 beginning on page 147 of the Agenda.