Calimesa turned the next page in building a new library Monday night when the city council conceptually approved a partnership with the County of Riverside Business and Community Services Department and the allocation of funds. “This is a very exciting thing. The possibilities are hopefully going to becoming real,” City Manager Bonnie Johnson said when she introduced the item at the Oct. 18 meeting. Deputy City Manager/City Clerk Darlene Gerdes, who presented the conceptual approvals, said she and Johnson had been meeting with the county to discuss a new library following a council meeting in March, where the Calimesa Library Commission presented a report on expansion options and their costs. There were three options: An additional modular that would connect to the existing one through a breezeway at a cost of approximately $1.1 million; a larger, singular modular of about 5,700 square feet at a cost of approximately $1.5 million; and a 9,000-square-foot permanent building at a cost of approximately $3.8 million. All options call for the existing site on Calimesa Boulevard to be used along with the adjacent lot that the city also owns. Riverside County Board of Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, a Calimesa resident and former mayor, was at the March meeting and suggested a conceptual design be created and brought to the board of supervisors with a request for funding. Shortly after that meeting, the County of Riverside Business and Community Services Department contacted Calimesa regarding a new library, Gerdes said. Then, earlier in October, Director Suzanne Holland and Assistant Director Amber Jacobson came back to the city and expressed their commitment to work with Calimesa to build a new library and would request a significant allocation from the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, though an exact amount was not given. The proposed library would be an approximate 5,500-square-foot modular building, more than double the existing size of 2,520 square feet. According to the library commission report in March, a 5,500-square-foot library can serve approximately 15,000 residents. The design plans are at the beginning stages, but are expected to include a community or meeting room, something that has long been desired at the Calimesa Library, a children’s center, more storage, additional bathrooms and a larger parking lot. Calimesa has $1,414,146, with the majority from a Library Facilities DIF (district improvement financing) Fund, plus donations and a Library Operations Fund, to allocate to the project. Once Calimesa receives confirmation from the board of supervisors’ staff on approval of funding, city and county staffs will work collectively to move the project forward, Gerdes said. Calimesa staff and the library commission will be included in the design process. “Is this going to be considered like a permanent library?” Councilwoman Wynona Duvall asked about the new modular building. Mayor Bill Davis noted the existing library, which is also modular, has been in use for about 20 years. “This is it for us … we can only go one step at a time,” he said. Councilwoman Wendy Hewitt wanted to know what would happen to the old post office building on the adjacent lot. “Are they tearing that down?” she asked. “Yes, I believe it is going to have to be torn down to be able to have enough room for the building as well as parking, but again we aren’t quite to that yet,” Gerdes said in reply. She added the agenda item Monday night was to confirm council is in agreement for staff to conceptually work with the county and to allocate its funds. “At this point, we just want to make sure council is on board with conceptually working with the county for this project,” Gerdes said. “Something formal between us and the county will come back at a later date.” “I think it is a wonderful thing,” Councilman Jeff Cervantez said before the unanimous vote of approval. Besides the design and appropriation of funds, another issue in discussion with the county is ownership of the new library. “Although the city owns the property and the county will be allocating the ‘lion share’ of the funds, staff does not know at this time who will ultimately own the building,” Gerdes said. “Staff is waiting confirmation from the county in this regard and there will be further discussions as the project is commenced.” She added she thought the city would own the building because it owns the property. “But,” Gerdes said, “I don’t have that definite answer.”
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