City closes book on library move to old Fields building

The proposal to move the Trail and District Public Library to the vacant Fields building has been turned down.

Relocating the library to the south end of town is a no-go.

Earlier this year, the Trail and District Public Library board put forth a proposal to council to relocate its operations into the vacant Fields building on Spokane Street in downtown Trail.

“I received an email from council in early April saying, ‘No,’” said Barbara Gibson, library chair.

“But I didn’t want to say anything until I had the chance to meet with them and say, please reconsider.”

Gibson explained that because council’s decision to decline the proposal was made in a closed meeting, she wanted to address them in person and lay out reasons why the proposal should be reconsidered.

“I wanted a chance to personally put the proposal in front of them again and ask for them to stand up and be counted.

“The citizens of Trail deserve to know who is voting in support of their library and who isn’t.”

Her dogged determination did not pay off, because council only agreed to defer decision to reconsider their position after a strategic planning session on Thursday.

“But that is a closed meeting as well, and those discussions will not be made public either.”

So far, the city has spent $40,000 on a consultant (hired by the board) for a complete assessment of the current library space and access; a 12-question survey to gain public opinion; and relocation options.

Once the reports were complete, and the chosen site was inspected by multiple engineers, the consultant issued a final compendium.

“The final cost with all the bells and whistles was $1.7 million,” said Gibson.

She explained that features could be cut from the project to decrease the price and that the ensuing cost could be spread out over three years; which would buy the library board time to pursue grants and other funding to help foot the bill.

“I told council that we could break up the costs so it didn’t impact the budget so terribly, and spin it out over three years.

“But here were are, still, with the future of the library up in the air.

“And what it comes down to is political will.”

David Perehudoff, chief administrative officer, said that the cost is a driving consideration, but not the only issue that has delayed reconsideration.

“The city is facing a number of major cost issues at this time within its five-year capital plan,” said Perehudoff. “And council has to determine where the library fits within the list of priorities.”

He explained that is coupled with the fact that the Village of Warfield, who is part of the service, is not willing to commit to additional funding at this time.

Additionally, the library has almost 1,300 users from outside our direct service area through the use of BC One Card and with this type of use, it might be that the library should be regionally funded as opposed to a locally funded service.

Gibson said that the library currently has 2,662 active Trail resident card holders and 502 from Warfield.

During the first three months of the year, the library welcomed 120 new library card holders.

“To me, that many people in a population of 7,000 means a lot of usage.”

With an average of 177 people walking through the library doors each day, Gibson questioned why council wouldn’t want to see that foot traffic  through the south end of town.

“The city’s own consultant said than an anchor is needed in that end of town to draw people in, and that draw is us,” she said.

Aside from the relocation being congruent with the downtown revitalization vision, Gibson said on three occasions the public said the library needs to be moved;  twice in referendum and once in the recent survey.

Citing the hazards of crossing the highway with children in tow, and difficulties for elderly and disabled residents to access its current location, the people have spoken said Gibson.

“Number one, is that 80 per cent of people surveyed said that yes, the library needs to be moved to another location.

“And the citizens of Greater Trail deserve it, what we have now is inadequate but we cannot seem to do what we need to do.”