Library boards discuss new facility, funding opportunities

Next step: Securing an architect

Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — FILE — Two dilapidated houses are seen Dec. 9 at 209 S. Oak St., shortly before Gene Haile Excavating Inc., crews started leveling the homes. The Moniteau County Library intends to construct a new library on the lot.
Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — FILE — Two dilapidated houses are seen Dec. 9 at 209 S. Oak St., shortly before Gene Haile Excavating Inc., crews started leveling the homes. The Moniteau County Library intends to construct a new library on the lot.

Architects will be coming to California to show off their creativity as they vie for the chance to design a new county library.

The Moniteau County Library Board of Trustees approved a date for an architect showcase at its Feb. 22 meeting. Prior to a traditional board meeting, the trustees held a joint discussion with members of the Elia Wood Paegelow Foundation, which supports the library, and Friends of Moniteau County Library Services boards to update them on the planning for a new facility. The three boards also discussed ideas for fundraising to purchase furnishings and equipment for the new building after its completion.

New facility plan

Library officials have considered expanding for years as its current facility has reached capacity. Paul Bloch, treasurer of the library Board of Trustees, said trustees initially wanted to expand its current facility by replacing a neighboring building on its southern side. However, a May 2022 structural evaluation by All-State Consultants, of Columbia, nixed the plan after it found the unreinforced masonry building could not withstand such an expansion. The library's current home was built in approximately 1864 and renovated between 1996-98 by California Progress Incorporated, and any further strain on the structure might cause unintended damage.

Although the engineers assured library staff the building was safe and posed no immediate threat to occupants, they discovered many concerns that would be costly to fix.

"The study came back and we have a lot of what I would call long-term issues with the building," Bloch said. "Nothing that makes it unsafe at this point, or else we wouldn't be sitting here, we wouldn't be inviting the public in here. But (it's) long term, it's going to take several hundred thousand dollars to simply stabilize the building."

As a result, the Moniteau County Library started looking at other options elsewhere.

"We began to look for other places to actually build a building, and there were none that were really satisfactory. We wanted to stay close," Bloch said. "The school, the elementary and the middle school, use this facility extensively. It's centrally located, it's high profile, the public's aware of it. We didn't want to get too far away from ... the heart of California."

The trustees eventually found a property that ticked a lot of its boxes for a new location. On Jan. 27, the library closed on the property at 209 S. Oak St., after the previous owner leveled two dilapidated homes on the lot. The property is close to the elementary/middle school campus and is centrally located.

Bloch said the property would allow the library to operate all on one level, maximizing the efficiency of the library's small staff.

"With a small staff, you can't operate on two levels," he said. "We do try to operate efficiently with a small number of personnel, and to have someone (on an upper level) if we had books up (there), it doesn't make sense."

In addition to staffing, limiting the building to one level would make it easier for patrons. It would also reduce building and ongoing costs, such as elevator maintenance.

With a location ready to go, the library discussed other obstacles for a new facility: planning and funding.

Bloch said the trustees only have a vague idea of the cost of a new facility, since its trustees are still in the beginning stages of planning the project. To get a clearer look at a possible facility, and the costs associated with making it a reality, the library would need to work with an architect to develop a concept for a new building. He said the library will host an architect showcase to allow architects to demonstrate their creative abilities and experience, from which the library would select a firm to move forward with.

In addition to designing the building, an architect will work with the library and contractors on the project from start to finish. Library Director Connie Beauchamp said architects will create construction plans and documents from their conceptual designs, which will be used to solicit construction bids. The architect firm will open construction bids submitted in a public sealed bid process, subsequently creating the contracts needed to start building the new facility. Once construction is underway, the architects will still frequent the job site to communicate with contractors and perform quality assurance checks, Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp said a Missouri State Library document detailing library standards provides guidance on various details of library facilities, including signage, maintenance, formulas for required comfort seating based on service population, parking, staff work areas and more. The document can also account for 20 years of projected growth, she said, which the current facility simply cannot handle.

"We will use statistics to calculate the amount of shelving space we're going to be needing for new materials at our current level of budget allocation," Beauchamp said. "We spend 20- to 25-thousand per year, and that begins to eat up linear shelf space. We are really close to maxing things out, we keep shifting and shifting. We (have) discarded about everything we should, so it is definitely time to get started on this project."

When construction begins, Beauchamp said, the library will host a groundbreaking ceremony. With construction underway, the library itself would still have some work to do by preparing for its completion. Because furnishings and equipment will be funded separately, fundraising will be required to complement the new building with new shelving, seating and other furnishings. Beauchamp said the Morgan County Library, her previous employer, spent approximately $133,000 on furnishing its new 12,000-square-foot library in 2005.

Both funding for the facility itself and fundraising ideas for furnishings and equipment were discussed at the meeting.

Bloch said it was a priority for the library to avoid raising taxes to finance construction of a new facility, leaving the board with two options: to also fundraise for constructing the facility, or borrow money.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development representatives pitched financing options for the facility to the library trustees in their January meeting. With USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program, the library could borrow funds with a fixed-rate, fixed-term loan with better rates than most local lending institutions could offer. The current USDA Rural Development rate is 3.75 percent, with terms available up to 40 years. Travis Zimmerman, a USDA Rural Development representative, said at the January meeting the rate is locked in when the loan is approved or when the project is completed, whichever is lower.

Bloch estimated the library would pay $49,000 annually for the USDA Rural Development financing, with the library's "income above expense" anticipated to be around $75,000 this year.

"I wouldn't want to give much above $50,000, but we think we could manage that and still operate a library that's going to serve the 14-thousand people in this county," he said.

One caveat with the USDA Rural Development loan, however, is that pre-payments would not decrease the library's annual payments for the building note. Instead, pre-payments would reduce the term of the note. Therefore, the library would need to gather as much funding as possible for a down payment to lower its annual installments on the loan.

"I think we can do this, and the less we have to borrow, the more that money we can pour into operations rather than debt service," Bloch said.

The USDA Rural Development loan would also require the library to set aside "replacement and extension" funds, which can be used to make repairs to the facility. The loan also requires the library to seek bids from local lending institutions to see if any can provide comparable rates to the USDA Rural Development rate.

With a plan and financing option in place for a new facility, members of the three boards discussed fundraising ideas to lower the library's annual loan installments and to cover furnishings, equipment and additional expenses. Several ideas for fundraisers were floated at the meeting, such as holding a gala and selling different tiers of naming rights.

Beauchamp said library staff and the library board cannot participate in fundraising, leaving fundraising to members of the Paegelow Foundation and Friends of the Moniteau County Library Services. Members of the two organizations discussed responsibilities and formed an operating committee that would oversee the fundraising.

Although Beauchamp recently stepped back to just working part-time, she intends to stay with the library to watch the new facility take shape.

"I'm so invested in this library that I really wanted to stay through this, and I've been through building and moving a library, and it's a big deal," she said.

"When I came here in 2010, we received $48,000 a year in tax revenue. I don't even know how we functioned, but we did," Beauchamp continued. "Now, after we passed the levy in 2017, we got our first tax revenue in January 2019. Each year the assessed valuation goes up, we now get about $250,000 a year. It's an incredible ride we've had, and I wouldn't miss it for anything."

Other business

Following the joint meeting, the library board reconvened separately to set a date for the architect showcase, along with hearing reports and adjourning into closed session.

The board set the architect showcase for March 21. A time has yet to be definitively set.

During the director's report, Beauchamp said Commerce Bank issued two credit cards for staff use. At the January meeting, Beauchamp explained the library originally had two $1,000 credit cards, one with her and another with a staff member. After the staff member originally responsible for the card left, it was canceled and the credit limit on Beauchamp's card increased to $2,000. Beauchamp felt it was appropriate to reverse back to having two separate $1,000 cards since she only works part-time. Beauchamp will have one card, with Jessica George, media and programming specialist for the library, possessing the other card.

In other parts of her report, Beauchamp said the library elevator was inspected but still requires load testing to ensure it can operate at maximum capacity.

The Winter Checkout Challenge has also been a success, Beauchamp said, with 130 patrons participating in the drawing. The challenge ended Tuesday, with the drawing happening today.

photo Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — Debris fills a lot Dec. 16, 2022, at 209 S. Oak St., after Gene Haile Excavating Inc., crews demolished two dilapidated homes on the property. The Moniteau County Library purchased the empty lot in late January as they plan to construct a new library facility.