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Study documents opposition to library location

Officials recommend process to consider other sites

Powell River Public Library officials have recommended stepping back to consider other locations in the drive for a new building.

Charlie Kregel, chief librarian, released a feasibility study on Thursday, September 12 and gave a presentation about its findings during the City of Powell River’s committee-of-the-whole meeting the same day. While the consultants, Pharos Fundraising Strategy + Communication, found there was widespread support for a new library, there was significant opposition to the location, the vacant lot on the northwest corner of Marine Avenue and Abbotsford Street, known as the old arena site, or Willingdon South.

The library board has recommended that city staff prepare a report for council that would include a recommendation to examine one or two additional sites for a new library. “Then, council would select one or two additional sites and provide funds to develop design concepts at each of those sites,” said Kregel. The board estimates that it would cost $25,000 to develop design concepts for each site, he added.

The concepts, including the one for Willingdon South, would be presented to the public in a series of meetings and a preferred choice would be identified, backed up by a telephone poll. “The combined results would tell us which concept to adopt,” Kregel said. The process would take six months, he added.

Council agreed with Kregel’s recommendation to refer the issue to staff. Kregel briefed council on the consultant’s report, which is dated July 4, on Monday, September 9 at an in-camera library board meeting.

The report recommends the following formula for raising $9.5 million for the proposed building on Willingdon South: $1 million from a capital campaign; $3.5 million from borrowing, paid back through taxation; $1 million from Powell River Community Forest Ltd.; and $3.5 million from federal and provincial government grants. As well, the city would have to waive development cost charges, permits and site development costs, for a $500,000 savings.

In preparing the feasibility report, Pharos gathered information in two ways, Kregel said. They conducted more than 30 interviews with individuals who the board identified as people who might have the means to support the project or who they thought might support a new library, Kregel said, plus representatives of local governments and the community forest. As well, Stratcom, a national polling firm, conducted a telephone poll.

Kregel also said that because opposition to the site is a defining issue of the new library, the board needs a strategy to address it. “The board is concerned that running a capital campaign in face of significant opposition related to site or any other issue would be challenging. Getting supporters to commit to any project in an uncomfortable and contentious atmosphere can be exceptionally difficult.”

Cleve Hamilton, one of the organizers of the Save Willingdon Beach campaign, said the consultants concluded there’s little support for a library at Willingdon South and it should be taken out of the equation. “Instead of just taking the Willingdon site off the table, it’s once again, continue the ‘process,’” he said. “In other words, keep dragging it on until the board gets their way. I would prefer the promised referendum now, with just the location in question.”

If the library board and council listened to people, especially the 5,000-plus who signed a petition opposing Willingdon South, “they would get their new library with the support of the majority of the people, including me,” Hamilton said.