Five blindfolded men described an elephant. One, feeling the tail, "It's like a rope." The second, grasping the writhing trunk, "It's like a snake." Another, stroking a floppy ear, "A fan." Another kicked the elephant's leg, "Like a tree." The last, caressing its pointed tusk, "A spear."
All perceived something different.
Ferndale's new library opportunity is like that. Citizens have different perspectives - all valid.
Here's my take to answer lingering questions and inspire a confident "yes" vote for Proposition 1 on April 23.
10 PERCENT OF COST
Citizens will vote on a $550,000 levy to build a $5.5 million library. If approved, a typical homeowner will pay less than $1 per month for 14 years and cover only 10 percent of the library cost.
How did Ferndale get such a wonderful deal?
A 2006 "needs assessment" confirmed the former library was inadequate. Although technology changed the design of modern libraries, their necessity and usage increased. Demand upon Ferndale's library and programs grows yearly.
In 2007 a donor came forth with a $1 million gift. (Fast forward: Thanks to many partners like the Whatcom County Library System, the Whatcom Community Foundation, and Friends of the Library, donations have now surpassed $3 million!)
While this was occurring, Ferndale was working on strategies to build a police station. Until recently, Ferndale was renting space that was formally deemed unclean, unsafe, undersized and inadequate to protect officers and staff, victims and evidence.
Site location was a challenge. But an idea emerged. The library would become vacant and Ferndale could save citizen money by transforming the library into our first dedicated police station.
LIBRARY FUND RAISING CONTINUES
And the library? Had fundraising proceeded faster the new library could have been built before our police moved. But a recession hit, fundraising slowed down, and there was no certainty that funding would be completed by a predictable date.
So council, acting on convictions that a police station was urgent, chose to move the library into temporary facilities at Pioneer Pavilion - Ferndale's old roller rink and former Boys and Girls Club. It had been salvaged and remodeled following a fire and will eventually become a multi-purpose community events facility after the library moves to its permanent home. (We are good at recycling buildings!)
So the Pavilion was remodeled. The library took up temporary residence. The former library building was redesigned into a police station. Our police moved in. And library fundraising continued.
With me so far? Now, some money stuff.
CITY MONEY AND GOLDILOCKS
In 2009, City Council pledged $1 million toward the new library and property on Main Street. A year later (taking advantage of matching gifts) council pledged another $250,000.
Some saw this as the amount saved when Ferndale avoided building a police station from the ground up - something that could have added $2 million to the cost of that project. Others saw this as fair "compensation" for using the former library.
Some wanted to pledge more. Others less.
My own view?
I take the Goldilocks judgment that $1.25 million was "just about right." It's an amount, council determined, that could be safely financed through real estate excise taxes (paid when someone sells property) along with a modest 0.5 percent increase in solid waste taxes (which will be distributed among all of Whatcom County amounting to less than $1 per year per household).
So it's the fall of 2012. We dedicated our new police station. Our library staff was serving citizens temporarily (and in limited capacity) at the Pioneer Pavilion. Fundraising, though under way, was short by $2.5 million.
Then another $1 million matching gift was announced. And through donations and a large grant 70 percent of it was matched in short order.
We are very close. By passing this small $550,000 levy all matching gifts will be maximized. Grants (which have a time limit and can be lost this year) will be fulfilled and used. And construction on a great new community building will begin this fall.
Ferndale citizens are thoughtful and conservative when it comes to pocketbook issues. They recognize a great stewardship opportunity when they see it. Passage of Prop. 1 gives the city a new library and frees up the Pioneer Pavilion for countless other uses. And all for less about a buck a month. Let's finish this project by voting "yes" on April 23. Visit FerndaleLibrary.com for more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon R. Mutchler is a Ferndale City Council member, pastor of Ferndale Alliance Church, husband and father of seven children.