OGDEN — Additional numbers and data related to the proposed construction of a new branch library in Farr West are emerging, including a preliminary price tag north of $20 million.
Still, it’s early in the process and not a sure thing the proposal will move forward anytime soon. “It’s a real possibility that nothing will happen,” said Lynnda Wangsgard, who heads the Weber County Library System, operated under the auspices of Weber County government.
The notion of building a sixth system library in Farr West or somewhere else in northwestern Weber County has long been a topic of discussion, but the issue has been the focus of particular attention of late. Members of the Weber County Library Board of Trustees have discussed the possibility at their last two gatherings, including their regular meeting last week, and more discussion is likely into the summer. As Wangsgard sees it, not to sort through the particulars of the possibility now would be irresponsible, especially with building costs rising and rising.
“At what point in time will a facility out there be priced out of the market?” Wangsgard said.
But it’s a delicate topic, particularly with the potential cost — $27.43 million, according to very preliminary estimates — and there is plenty of competition for county funding. “The county has a lot of needs. I don’t know where this will fit on the priority list,” Wangsgard said.
Cynthia Mattson, chairperson of the library board of trustees, would like to see a new library. The system currently operates libraries in Ogden, North Ogden, Washington Terrace, Roy and Huntsville. “It is a desire of ours. It would round out the library system,” she said.
Wangsgard notes the “phenomenal” growth in the area around Pleasant View, Farr West, Plain City, Marriott-Slaterville and the rest of western Weber County. That growth has given rise to the discussion for a branch in the area, possibly on land that the city of Farr West says it’d be willing to donate near Wahlquist Junior High School and Farr West Elementary Scool.
But the cost and means of paying need to be pinpointed, bearing on the viability. According to minutes from the May meeting of the library board, released ahead of last week’s meeting, the estimated cost of $27.43 million represents $571 per square foot, up from the $283 per square foot it cost to build the new Southwest Branch library in Roy, completed in 2016.
Generating new tax revenue to cover costs associated with a new library could boost property taxes on the average home by around $21.50 a year, Weber County Comptroller Scott Parke said, according to minutes from the May meeting. He said debt payments and operating costs on a sixth facility could total as much as $3.5 million a year.
Wangsgard emphasizes that the estimated price tag is just that, an estimate, and thinks it faces plenty of tweaking. “It’s realistic for the worst-case scenario,” she said. According to the meeting minutes, building a smaller facility will typically increase the per-square-foot cost.
Mattson emphasized the import of garnering public support if anything’s to move forward. “We would love for it to happen, but it would have to make sense for Weber County patrons, all of them,” she said.
And in that regard, it may be a bit tougher mustering broad support now than it was for the $45 million library bond issue approved by voters in 2013. That money was used to overhaul the libraries in Ogden, North Ogden and Huntsville and to rebuild the Roy facility.
At last May’s meeting, Wangsgard expressed reservations at the level of support that might be mustered now given the smaller pool of people who would be impacted by construction of a Northwest Branch library. Because four zones stood to get better libraries per the 2013 bond, residents in each of the far-flung areas could be tapped for support, a tougher prospect with just one library.
Library backers in 2013 “ran an aggressive campaign for the previous bond and could do so again, but they could not now leverage the same constituencies,” the minutes for the meeting read. “Residents in North Ogden, Roy, Ogden and Ogden Valley now all have their new or renovated facilities.”
Next, library officials hope to finish a business plan outlining the potential financing and other details of building a sixth library. They’re also still trying to pinpoint project costs. Wangsgard, for her part, would like to reach a “shared vision” with county commissioners on the issue to bolster prospects for any proposal.