The Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) has informed its partner communities what their levies will be for this year. The approximate five per cent increase in the levy will go towards retaining existing services and improving the organization's E-resources, where it is seeing increasing demand. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

City should consider fresh alternative to the library plan

This letter is in response to your Oct. 28 article outlining Mayor Andy Adams’ discussion of the proposed new library to be constructed on the existing site (“Mayor of Campbell River addresses concerns surrounding new library funding”).

First, we would like to applaud council’s decision to invest in the downtown core. We only need to look at what happened in the area of Alder and St. Ann’s with the city’s investment in this precinct which when combined with Mr. Mailman’s private investment, succeeded in reversing the long decline in this area. It is now an area of pride for all of us.

There is no doubt that the Downtown core between 11th and 13th Avenues is currently suffering greatly and something needs to be done to reverse this unfortunate situation. An investment by the City in this area is long overdue; an investment in a new public library in this area could be a ‘game-changer.’

The mayor is correct that the $14 million being budgeted for the new library comes from the Regional Library Board’s budget and not directly from City. However, the city is a ‘Shareholder of the Library Board’ (which includes all the municipalities and regional districts north of the Malahat) and in 2020 the city’s contribution to the Library funds was a not an insignificant $1.616 million.

As a shareholder/member of the regional library, our city (through council) has an obligation to ensure that library funds are being spent appropriately. Is the $14 M being spent responsibly, we do not know enough about the Library Board’s financial decisions to judge that?

However, we would like to address a second question which needs to be considered “is there a more appropriate location for a new library in our Downtown ?” The city has an obligation to ensure that the decision on the location of the new library meets the needs of both the library and the needs of the community.

We think there is a better alternative.

The proposed new library is a two-story building which is problematic for both mobility and security. Consequently, a site of sufficient size that the new library can be on one level should be preferable (The building can be higher but the library function should be all on one level).

Fortunately, such a site exists in the immediate area. It is the former Rose Bowl site which is currently being used for transition housing. We have been told that this is interim only so the site can be available.

This location offers several advantages.

• Enables the library needs to be met on a single level.

• The existing library building, which would likely cost in the $2.5 Million range to replace, would be preserved, and could be repurposed for the Art Gallery. As well, a further $1 million dollars cost to the City to demolish the existing building would not be spent.

• A new library on the Rosebowl site will anchor the redevelopment of this area as proposed in the City’s visioning report “Refresh Down Town”. This report projects that both Cedar and Cypress Streets will get a makeover similar to Alder Street with underground utilities, new street landscaping, wider sidewalks, bike lanes etc. It is very likely what are now vacant lots would soon be improved with new commercial buildings with the City’s investment. It is not inconceivable that this area could quite easily be generating an additional $200,000+ of annual taxes revenues from these new developments in a very short time

• A library at this location will easily be connected both visually and with pedestrian access to the Community Centre which is only about 300 feet walking distance away. The library, Art Gallery and Tidemark Theatre would form a cohesive cultural and artistic centre – connected and a true downtown destination.

• A “Refreshed Downtown” of this area will change the current street scene.

We have been told that it is too late, and the decision has already been made to build the new library on the same site.

We have been told that if the city does not proceed with this plan then Campbell River will go to the bottom of the list.

Surely some flexibility must exist to revisit the current proposal and to consider this fresh alternative.

It is not too late and we would urge those of you who think that a second look should be taken – make your wishes known to council.

Write a letter, send an email – just let them know how you feel.

Dan Samson