FERNDALE - A three-year effort to raise money for a new city library has stalled, after city officials learned Tuesday, June 5, that a request for a major grant will not be approved.
This was not a surprise, as city leaders got that message in a May 18 meeting with Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws. He told Mayor Gary Jensen and City Administrator Greg Young that he will ask the Economic Development Investment Board to consider projects that create long-term private-sector jobs.
Ferndale's request for $1.25 million to help build a public library doesn't meet the executive's criteria. That amount would cover most of what still needs to be raised to build the library, on Main Street next to City Hall.
Young received a phone call from the executive's office on Tuesday, telling him the library grant will not appear on the board's agenda at its meeting later this month, according to an email from city clerk Sam Taylor.
"We had hoped EDI funds could fill that gap," Young said in an interview Friday, adding, "In terms of EDI, we understand the (executive's) rationale."
With that news, the city still needs $2 million to cover construction and other preliminary work for the total $5.1 million project.
In addition, the city would like another $500,000 to cover unanticipated costs, Young said.
The library has been in a temporary home at Pioneer Pavilion, 2007 Cherry St., since March 2011. Its former location at 2222 Main St. has been remodeled into the new police station. The Police Department is expected to move in next month.
Some of the money already donated for the library has strings attached, and there is some pressure to start construction, said Norine Amend, president of Friends of the Ferndale Public Library. A $250,000 grant will be withdrawn if construction doesn't begin by August 2013. The deadline on that grant has already been extended once.
"To me, I think there is a huge urgency to get the money and get going," Amend said.
Officials from the city and the county libraries, Friends members and the Whatcom Community Foundation will meet July 25 to chart a course for future funding, said Joan Airoldi, director of the Whatcom County Library System.
Six options are being considered, Airoldi said. They include asking voters in the city of Ferndale or the broader Ferndale School District to approve a tax to cover the remaining cost, or staying at Pioneer Pavilion.
An anonymous $1 million donation to the library from 2009 requires construction of a new building. That money would go away if the city opts to keep the library where it is, Airoldi said.
Amend said that option isn't appealing because the current space, even after a recent remodel, has shortcomings - no air conditioning, and not enough space for meetings and staff.
The architect's design for the new library was unveiled last summer. Features of the 15,000-square-foot building include a meeting room, energy-efficient design, and plenty of natural light with a view of Mount Baker. The City Council has committed $1.25 million to library construction.
If fundraising doesn't reach its goal, the library could stay at Pioneer Pavilion for an extended time, Taylor said. Visits to the library have increased by a third since the move, he said, and air conditioning plus a new power supply could be installed for $50,000.
"If they do stay there long term, there are opportunities to enhance what they have now," Taylor said.
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 715-2261.