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Around the Creek: City Finds Way to Maintain Library Hours

More news, useful tidbits and random tales of what's happening in and around Walnut Creek.

One outcome of the City Council's goal-setting retreat last week was that it found funds to keep the downtown and Ygnacio Valley libraries open at the current number of hours for four years.

Walnut Creek voters passed Measure Q in 2002 to increase the hours at both libraries from 35 to 56. But Measure Q expired in July, the same month the new downtown library opened.

There have been questions about whether the city would need to return to voters and ask for another tax to maintain the 56 hours. The city initially said it could cover the costs of the hours for two years.

But the need now is less pressing, according to City Manager Ken Nordhoff. He announced at Tuesday's City Council meeting that the city had saved enough money to pay for those hours for the next four years.

Both libraries are operated by the county but Walnut Creek voters decided with Measure Q, passed in 2002, to help pay for the additional hours. The city will pay $539,000 to $635,000 each year to staff the additional hours. 

One more time with feeling February 08, 2011 at 05:22 PM
WC-Independent, Some of my thought process and background on the project... I am not anti-Library. I am anti-overspending. The *original* Contra Costa County downtown Walnut Creek branch library project was around $56 million. As time passed, voters twice rejected the project funding and the State twice rejected grant requests, the parking that was to wipe out the Maxwell property was eliminated, and we got down to about $43 million that the City Manager at the time said we could not afford. $4,000 sinks, $400 chairs and $500,000 automatic book return notwithstanding we should remember we have two library branches in Walnut Creek. Much of the "justification" revolved around Walnut Creek's population and this single downtown facility. A bit more cutting got us to a little less than $40 million. For my "comps": City of Belmont: $11 million, opened May 2006. Alameda County MAIN library: $22 million, opened October 2009. Logan Heights (branch) library (San Diego), $14 million, opened December 2009. Winters (branch) library, $6 million, opened July 2009. There are several others. Getting the state grant AND voter approval OR something less than $25 million would have been more acceptable and affordable.
One more time with feeling February 08, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Because the City was accruing funds for the County-staffed library construction costs (that voters did not approve), the City fell into a budget deficit of about $20 million. This deficit caused "the new normal" (Credit: former City Manager Gary Pokorny) at City Hall and resulted in the layoff of 30+ employees. The actual funding of the library project was not the only "cost", but the huge impact of the people caught in the fallout of the bad decisions made that had these folks losing their jobs in a very poor economic environment. For the most part, many are part of a demographic that could least afford the loss of income and benefits. When all this is tossed into a blender along with some companion political events, in my opinion, "oh well, we spent too much", turns into "gross overspend" that requires constant visibility so we don't do the same thing again (reference the planned $21 million pools projects updates). Apologies for the long commentary...
michael frederick February 08, 2011 at 07:38 PM
WC-Independent, WC used the highly acclaimed Santa Clara Library as a model. There are, I believe, 9 billionaires in Los Gatos alone; we have none. WC's proposal was 50% more than this model THEY selected. In no small measure, this was due to the fact, as you mentioned, that they tacked $20 million of commercial parking garage onto it -- which commercial interests downtown previously rejected funding under an assessment district. Better for residents to fund it by slapping a library sticker on the side of it? Without getting bogged down in numbers, I think we all can appreciate that having library fanatics determine "library needs" makes as much sense as having Art advocates present data to support the value of Art to justify ever-increased Art funding. It's for the infirm to enjoy. What's next? Are we going to ask 12 year old little leaguers how much we should spend on a downtown sports stadium? Will $200,000,000 be enough? With this city recognizing everyone with an abnormal personal interest as an expert to be deferred to regarding that interest, why not? They're the experts. As One More Time mentioned, the major point -- that I believe is beyond refutation -- is that this library never aspired to meet WC's library needs. Instead, it was a commercial promotion to produce a "gem", "jewel", ... It was an extravagance that any prudent and concerned person would question, given the worst timing in eighty years and NO outside funding.
One more time with feeling February 11, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Sadie, Fred's Walnut Creek city voicemail "greeting" says he left in July (apparently, 2010), is now at Alameda and refers the caller to another finance-department employee. I guess that explains the Finance Manager job posting at the city's web-site. Interesting we have such a plethora of qualified experts to "volunteer" for the BRTF (including those not making the final cut) yet it takes more than seven months to fill a Finance Manager job. Apparently it is essential and just eliminating the position is appropriate. That said, I wonder why Fred left... OMTWF
One more time with feeling February 11, 2011 at 06:10 PM
WC Library Foundation Director: Hows the activity to correct the League of Women Voters, Walnut Creek Nutshell and the State of California Measure Q synopsis going? Has the Walnut Creek Library Foundation financial information been posted (like the Lafayette Library Foundation) at the WCLF web site? Any update on that IRS link you said was available? I know these things can take time - and its only been a little over a week so maybe I am premature for asking. Just checking... Thanks! OMTWF

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