INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The idea of a new and expanded library in Indian Rocks Beach is dead - at least for the immediate future.
The IRB City Commission, at its August 1 meeting, unanimously voted to table the ordinance that would have authorized the question to go on the ballot for voters in November.
Basically, voters would have been asked if they approved improvements and construction cost of a new library for $3 million.
IRB is a city of about 5,000 residents. To some, the idea of an expensive library in the small city is silly. There are three modern, large libraries within 10 miles at Clearwater, Largo and Seminole.
The price talked of in Indian Rocks Beach is a $600 per capita cost. Largo, for instance, with 72,000 residents has a library ($23 million) at a little more than $300 per capita cost.
Commissioners apparently followed the thinking of Victor Wood in agreeing to delay any referendum.
Wood has said, that although the sound of a new library seems like a good idea, enough information has not been compiled to make a sound judgment on the question.
"I would suggest that the commission take the emotion out of any decision - take time, gather facts, then put it on the ballot," Wood has said.
Even with the prospects of an immediate new library fading, the city is already committed to hiring a librarian at some $60,000 a year.
Jim Driscoll, a former mayor, has been an enthusiastic backer of a new library. He said that the costs to taxpayers could be minimized by grants and donations.
However, in the long run, as Largo has discovered, the yearly upkeep and updating of a library is an expensive proposition.
At the meeting July 25, Mayor Bill Ockunzzi and Commissioner R.B. Johnson (himself a strong advocate for the library) wondered why a referendum was needed.
Commissioner Jose Coppen thought that the public, which will bear the burden of cost, should have the deciding voice in the matter.
Coppen is still pushing for the televising of commission meetings, an idea that seems to have stalled at the desk of Al Grieshaber, the city manager.
Coppen has also strongly advocated a Community Redevelopment Agency, designating a redevelopment district and proceeding with tax increment financing. This also seems to have fallen if not on deaf ears, reluctant ears.
While the library issue has been derailed for November, that probably is only temporary and advocates of the project will be noisily active, pushing for a referendum vote next March.
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