New library gets over last funding hump

By Pat Grubb

The new library is pretty much a go!

After years of fundraising and disappointing election results, it appears that the campaign to build a new library in Point Roberts has achieved success. Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) executive director Christine Perkins informed Point Roberts parks board commissioners that the WCLS board had approved up to $160,000 to complete the funding of the building’s construction, contingent upon a new Memorandum of Understanding.

Speaking to the parks board at its regular monthly meeting March 15, Perkins said WCLS board members had determined that, “even though it’s not our normal practice, we are willing to contribute more money because we would love to see all the people who contributed to the project in Point Roberts actually get a library out of it.” This money is in addition to the $110,000 already committed by the WCLS for furniture, fixtures and equipment for the new library. Typically, the WCLS does not contribute to capital building expenditures for new or remodeled library buildings although it has done so infrequently in the past.

The campaign, spearheaded by the Friends of the Point Roberts Library (FOPRL) group, had raised approximately $540,000 towards the design and construction of the library, which involves the remodeling of the Julius Fire Hall located next to the Gulf Road community center. The total cost of the construction is projected to be $840,000. A parks district levy to raise the remaining $300,000 failed to receive the required 60 percent super majority in the November election, missing the mark by 34 votes. FOPRL subsequently secured $140,000 in pledges and donations following the election loss, leaving a shortfall of $160,000. The WCLS contribution satisfies this shortfall and will allow construction to go forward.

One of the driving forces behind the new library campaign, Judy Ross, was pleased by the action of the WCLS board. “FOPRL is extremely grateful to WCLS for its recent work on furthering the new library and in helping to complete the needed funding. In the next few weeks, we expect to have a final agreement on a revised memo of understanding (MOU) among the three sponsors of the project (FOPRL, the Point Roberts parks district, and WCLS), with each sponsor making clear its commitment to completing the new Point Roberts library,” she told the All Point Bulletin.

The three entities currently have an MOU outlining each group’s responsibilities vis-à-vis the new library. The MOU will need to be updated to reflect the contribution by WCLS as well as protect it in the event that the parks district in the future terminates the agreement to house the library in the remodeled building. WCLS is proposing the return of its money or a 25 percent share in the sale of the building. Parks board chair Linda Hughes proposed that such an obligation should not exist in perpetuity; as WCLS and the parks board had partnered in offering library service already for 47 years, Hughes suggested a 50-year term to the obligation. Fellow commissioner Stephen Falk dryly pointed out that none of the sitting commissioners were likely to be around if or when that happened.

Following further discussion, Hughes declared, “It looks pretty good. We’ll take it back to our respective corners and then convene in special meeting.” Perkins concurred, thanking the board and saying, “I really appreciate the good faith effort to work together.”

Following the revision and agreement to the revised MOU, the parks board intends to prepare bid documents to get the ball rolling on construction.

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