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Negotiations for new Cortes library halted

A new space for the Cortes library could be a long time coming after talks between the Vancouver Island Regional Library and a Cortes Island community group fell through this week.

The regional library has been looking to rent a space for the library and had been in negotiations with the Southern Cortes Community Association since 2010 to find a new temporary location.

However, the association’s most recent proposal falls outside the scope of Vancouver Island Regional Library’s (VIRL) calls for a lease opportunity.

“Vancouver Island Regional Library has been unsuccessful over the past eighteen months with the Expression of Interest process for a new library on Cortes,” said a press release issued by the regional library on Tuesday. “Vancouver Island Regional Library staff has not been authorized by the VIRL Board to negotiate outside the scope of the original Expression of Interest. Regretfully, negotiations with the Southern Cortes Community Association have therefore ceased.”

Rosemary Bonanno, executive director of the Vancouver Island Regional Library, said a new request for proposals process will be recommended to the board at its meeting June 9 in Nanaimo.

The library on Cortes is housed in a mezzanine, with a daycare below. In 2010, the library board determined the floor does not meet the required load of 150 pounds per square foot. In 2011, the library’s collection of books was reduced to deal with the weight – a short-term fix. Since then, the regional library has been working with the Southern Cortes Community Association to find a new space.

The search became more urgent earlier this month after the regional library shut down the Cortes branch May 4 due to concerns the mezzanine floor could collapse under the weight of the library books.

Noba Anderson, the Strathcona Regional District director representing Cortes Island, said the Southern Cortes Community Association has put in hundreds of hours of work negotiating with the regional library.

“They’ve looked at building designs and financial options and were working towards building their own building which they would then own and lease to VIRL,” Anderson said. “However, the financial requirements are too onerous for the Southern Cortes Community Association to take on.”

Anderson said Vancouver Island Regional Library could at any time give two months notice to opt out of the lease.

“You’re going to have a hard time getting financing if your tenant can opt out of the agreement at any time with two months notice,” Anderson said. “Ultimately it looks like it’s not going to lead to the community association building a new building but they could lease land to VIRL.”

The hitch is there is no building available on Cortes to permanently house the library. Either way Vancouver Island Regional Library would need a new building, Anderson said.

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