Natrona County Commission Launching Library Discussion With Resolution To Study Issues
The Natrona County Commission approved a resolution Tuesday to look at what to do with the landlocked, well-used albeit crowded, and potentially unsafe public library.
"The library is now a very well-functioning as far as providing services, but it doesn't have the space to meet the kinds of demands that a community this size has and will be having as the community grows," commissioner John Lawson said after the biweekly meeting.
The resolution starts a process to get out accurate information to the public about the value of the library, what it provides and what it needs, and gather public support, Lawson said.
"The best thing you can do when you start out is to leave everything open so it can be openly discussed and there be no restrictions," he said. This gives everyone the opportunity to look at financing, and building and site suggestions, he added.
The resolution noted the library’s importance as an asset to the community, that 70 percent of the county 81,000 residents hold library cards, that about 1,000 people a day use it, and that 10,000 students in the school district use it annually.
But last May, Casper Fire-EMS inspector Justin Smith wrote to library director Bill Nelson saying the building at 307 E. Second St., needs immediate attention to fix severely deficient fire protection and ways to exit the building in an emergency.
A report from GSG Architecture stated the remediation would cost $3.7 million and would take 16 months.
The library's board voted in March not to proceed with the renovations because they wouldn't fix the problems of trying to grow in a landlocked building
So the resolution takes the discussion to the next step.
The resolution establishes a committee with Lawson and Commission Chairman Forrest Chadwick to represent the county. If the Casper City Council approves a similar resolution, the council would have four members on the committee, too.
Chadwick said the commission deleted the original wording calling for looking at funding options for building a new library.
"We felt like that was too specific, to build a new library," he said. "We will look at all possibilities."
Casper Mayor Charlie Powell hasn't seen the resolution, but said Tuesday it probably will be brought up at a work session. The council has supported previous efforts for a new library.
"The commission has asked the city to consider signing a resolution," Powell said. "We've not had that discussion yet within the council. So I don't know how the other council members feel about this."