The Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service at Weber State University will host a forum and discussion on the upcoming bond election which will decide whether or not the Weber County Library System will receive $45 million for repairs, improvements and expansion. The forum will be held June 5, 2013, in the Garden Room of the Lindquist Alumni Center at 7 p.m.
The forum will not only examine the pros and cons of the costs and benefits the bond election will have on the library system, but also the novel means of the election itself — a mail elections with ballots having to be postmarked by June 25.
Carol McNamara, the director of the Walker Institute, said the forum isn’t aimed at swaying a vote either way, but intended to provide the venue for the forum, provide access to the information and facilitate discussion. The issue of libraries is important and relevant to communities, McNamara said.
“Libraries are a kind of civic center,” she said. “They’re much more multifaceted in their importance to communities than they used to be, so the discussion about whether or not to support an improvement or expansion of the facilities is, I think, an important public issue.”
McNamara said one of the main goals of the Walker Institute is to promote discussion about all different civic issues of importance to the community.
“That’s an important place for the Walker Institute to be engaged — in the issues that matter to the community,” McNamara said. “And what could be more fundamental than the library system?”
The Weber County Library System is looking for the public to authorize a $45 million General Obligation Bond to pay for expansions and improvements to various facilities. Lynnda Wangsgard, the director of the Weber County Library, said the funds are necessary because of deteriorating conditions and a lack of space at the libraries.
The main branch library in Ogden was built in 1968 and suffers from electrical, structural and mechanical problems, posing safety issues. Wangsgard also said the southwest branch is too small to meet the needs of those who use its services and needs to be expanded to help accommodate. The expansions are especially necessary, Wangsgard said, because the libraries’ usage is going up about 9 percent every year, and nearly 1,200,000 people used the libraries last year.
The bond that will be used to pay for the expansions will cost county residents with an average home value — $161,000 — roughly an additional $13.50 per year with an increase in taxes. At the rate, the library bonds would be paid off in 20 years.
The Walker Institute’s forum is also taking the opportunity to examine and discuss the mail ballot being utilized in the election. McNamara said mail ballots are pretty novel to the area, so there is interest in how the election will work and go over with the public.
The June election is taking place by mail because it falls outside the usual November election cycle.
“How do you get people to vote in an offseason election? That might be why they’ve decided to experiment with a mail ballot,” McNamara said. “Obviously, if you’re asking to raise taxes for a bond issue, you want it to be legitimate. You want as many people to participate as possible.”