The Village of Oregon is committing to finance $10 million of the new library building’s cost – $4 million more than its originally planned contribution.
The new financing amount encompasses the village’s desire for the library to have net zero carbon emissions, as well as geothermal energy, bringing the total cost of construction up to around $12 million. The $10 million also fills in the gaps where the library capital campaign fell short amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which raised $2 million in community donations – about half of what was needed.
“This is overwhelming,” library board member Jenny Nelson said over Zoom with visible tears in her eyes at the news of the approval.
At a joint Village and Library Board meeting Monday, Feb. 22, trustees unanimously approved the $10 million amount after reviewing a study from the village’s financial consultant Ehlers. The boards also revisited a budget square foot analysis that OPN Architects put together in August 2019 when designing the new library concept to determine whether the renewable energy options were doable. The concept builds a library at 249 N. Main St. at a 2.7 acre parcel the village purchased in December 2016 for $890,000.
Trustees ultimately decided renewable energy features were attainable.
Village president Jeanne Carpenter and trustee Randy Glysch appeared to express similar emotions to Nelson in the meeting, also tearing up during the virtual meeting when the $10 million was approved.
“This is something that we are building for the future,” Glysch said. “If we believe our village is a great village, sometimes you have to put in a little money. Our residents deserve this.”
“This is one of the best projects I’ve worked on,” he added.
Village administrator Mike Gracz and David Ferris of Ehlers cautioned that the village would have to move some money around to make the additional financing sustainable. The borrowing amount would have an impact on taxes levied, Gracz said, and raise the village’s debt capacity — which is the statutory limit by which the municipality can borrow money.
The additional funding will also require a new borrowing schedule that factors in projects outlined in the village’s Capital Improvement Plan.
The Village and Library Boards could review the CIP as early as March 15 and April 12 meetings, Gracz said, as well as update the project’s Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU details how the project will play out, from design to construction.
In a presentation Ferris gave on Feb. 22, he pointed to four options the village had for financing, including staying at the original $6 million — or increasing to $8, 9, or $10 million.
Ferris explained how — factoring in impact fees, and the village’s debt — the borrowing amount would impact taxes on the average Oregon home, costing $320,000.
For example, Ferris said the taxes on a $320,000 home would be around $91 under the $6 million borrowing amount. With a $10 million financing amount, he said the taxes rise by $67.
Village trustee Amanda Peterson pointed out that increase would be minimally impactful to taxpayers. To that, Gracz said the village still needed to consider the debt capacity — he said the $10 million would put the village at above 75% of its statutory threshold.
Trustees argued that the green library building would offer a long-term return on investment over its first decade in operation.
The investment in the library would make returns in other ways as well, Wes Reynolds of OPN Architects advised during the budget square foot analysis. He said the North Main Street building would last the community at least 40-50 years, being comparable to Waunakee’s library.
“This is a destination library,” Peterson said. “People will stay and spend dollars here. It will help our businesses.”
Trustee Jerry Bollig concurred with Peterson, but wanted to point out that approving the $10 million bore no impact on the village’s plans for building a new Oregon Area Senior Center.
“This new library is the great thing to do right now,” Bollig said.
Library director Jennifer Way said at the meeting that even though the capital campaign has concluded, people can still donate to the new library project.
Make checks payable to Oregon Public Library, 256 Brook St., Oregon, WI 53575.
For information, call Way at 835-2322 or visit oregonpubliclibrary.com/new-library.