In a 4-1 vote, the Hollister City Council passed a resolution of support for a new, expanded public library and resource center. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, who has ideas about including a university element, was the sole “no” vote at the Aug. 19 meeting.
Councilman Marty Richman told BenitoLink he wanted to get it on the record that the council would support the expansion if either the city or county moves to seek funding for that purpose. On July 23, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors decided to contract for an economic feasibility study to give guidance on a new San Benito County Free Library.
The resolution says the library, built in 1960, is severely undersized for the amount of programs it provides. With a county population of approximately 55,265 that is projected to grow to at least 61,000 by 2021, according to the latest census count, the library’s capacity has been outstripped.
City Manager Bill Avera reminded the council that people have worked for several years to expand the library. Velazquez said, as he has for a number of years, that the council should consider a “bigger vision” for the library to include a university campus, tutoring rooms, and a community center. He said it’s important to include the university to avail the public of the opportunity to work toward degrees and higher-paying jobs.
Richman said his intention in asking for the agenda item was to discuss a library that would cater to a younger population.
“We put a couple hundred million dollars into the high school; we put $61 million into Gavilan College with $51 million that was supposed to build Gavilan College out on Fairview,” he said. “That’s not for eight-year-olds. Eight-year-olds and teenagers don’t mix. This is not for sending kids to college; this is for preparing kids for high school.”
Councilman Rolan Resendiz said he and his eight-year-old daughter use the library almost on a weekly basis and see children, teens, college-age students and adults using the facility. He said he would like to see a modern, inclusive library for all ages to maximize its use, and would like to see the library incorporate more technology.
Councilwoman Carol Lenoir said she did not realize the county budgets more than $900,000 in operational funds to the library, and that she wanted to discuss the city’s contribution, which is $15,000, according to Avera.
Velazquez said a study was done that indicated there was a need for a Technology, Education, and Library (TEL) center that incorporates all the elements he listed earlier, and is open to all age groups. The 2017 county study determined it would take $47 million to fund a state-of-the-art, 60,000-square-foot TEL center. Richman said it would be difficult enough coming up with money to expand the library and questioned how the city and county could pay for what the mayor and others envisioned.
San Benito County Supervisor Peter Hernandez also spoke at the meeting. He said he had been watching the meeting on television and felt compelled to attend in person. He said he appreciated Richman’s support of a standalone library, adding that the reality of a multimillion-dollar price tag needed to be considered. He said if the city was serious about supporting a larger facility, he would like to see the city and county work together.
“We need an open dialogue with the public,” Hernandez said. “If we’re talking about $40 million, it’s got to come from somewhere. If we’re talking about bonding, the public should know. There should be a conversation on how to make it pay for itself with different revenue streams. Otherwise, what you’re really talking about is the county paying for this whole thing and ongoing expenditures.”
Richman said there has been talk of expanding the library for the past three years as 700 or so students graduate from the high school each year, and nothing has been done.
“Now we’re going to talk about doing the Taj Mahal that might take another 20 years for us to even decide how we’re going to fund it,” Richman said. “I would like to do something that is possible. The more bells and whistles we put on this, the worse the argument is going to be about who’s going to fund it.”
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