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Many issues prevent expanding existing Marion Library

By John Clemens, Guest Columnist, The Gazette | September 1, 2015 |

Barbara Green’s guest column of Aug. 24, regarding the Marion Public Library, contains several factual errors.

The author states that a second floor was part of the current building design plan. This is incorrect. The existing library was built with the expectation that it could be added on to in a single story addition, up to 25 percent, not nearly 100 percent as is being contemplated now. The existing walls are wood frame. This frame and the building foundation will not support the weight of a second floor. The plan currently being contemplated by the library for a new building increases the square footage nearly 100 percent from the existing building. This is not possible using the existing foundation and framing.

The author also speaks incorrectly of the electrical system in the library. The in-floor electronic grid system referenced in the article does not exist. The building’s floor is a concrete slab and has an in-floor radiant heating system that make heating and electrical conduit changes extremely expensive.

To add a second floor the entire roof system would have to be removed which would mean the library would have to relocate during construction, adding expense to a renovation project that takes away from square footage in the end product.

It is the goal of the Marion Library board of trustees to provide the best service for the patrons of the library with the lowest financial burden to the taxpayers of the City of Marion, now and for the future. It is our opinion, and our research supports the fact, that this goal can best be accomplished through the construction of a new building as part of a mixed-use development at the current location in Uptown Marion. Not only does this strategy reduce the overall building costs for a new, expanded, library but it also provides a very significant tax revenue source for the city. This further reduces the financial burden on the taxpayers, saving everyone money while improving economic development in Uptown Marion and improving library service to its patrons.

Building a branch library, while maintaining the current location was considered, but quickly abandoned as not being financially viable. The main reason is increased operating costs. Even a smaller branch would necessitate adding many more staffers than a newly designed main library. A branch would also increase the costs of building operations, maintenance, and grounds maintenance. It is likely that a branch will be needed at some point in the future should Marion continue to grow to the north. However, a branch should be looked at in the context of serving Marion, Cedar Rapids, Robins, and Hiawatha as those communities all grow north.

• John Clemens is president of the Marion Public Library Board of Trustees. Comments:

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