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    Mayor opposes library location

    Locating Oldsmar's new library next to City Hall has many fans, but the city's mayor wants it elsewhere. The City Council is scheduled to make a decision at 7 tonight.

    By ED QUIOCO, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 2, 2002


    OLDSMAR -- When city officials compiled a list of pros and cons on where Oldsmar should build its new library, the balance tipped toward the SouthTrust Bank property next to City Hall on State Street.

    Informal polls of library patrons and the Friends of the Library also heavily favor that location.

    There's just one thing: The mayor isn't buying it.

    Mayor Jerry Beverland is adamant that the new library should be built next to the arts center on St. Petersburg Drive. He referred to city memoranda favoring the bank location as "propaganda."

    What everyone seems to agree on is that the decision is a big one.

    "This is going to be one of the most important decisions we make all year," Beverland said.

    City Council members are scheduled to make that choice during a meeting at 7 tonight in council chambers. Council members have to choose between the 1.2-acre SouthTrust Bank property on the western end of State Street and a 31/2-acre lot on St. Petersburg Drive.

    Council members agreed in November to buy the bank property for $660,000 as part of a three-way land swap between the city, a local developer and the bank.

    The location next to City Hall provides for more visibility because it borders Tampa Road, according to a report to the City Council from Public Works Director John Mulvihill and City Manager Bruce Haddock. They said that site also has advantages because of its proximity to City Hall, which means both buildings would be able to share resources such as meeting rooms and parking.

    "This location offers a superior opportunity to not only promote the library but also the community redevelopment district and the city itself," according to their report.

    The Friends of the Oldsmar Library sent a letter to city officials urging them to vote for the bank site. The group held an informal vote that was unanimous for that location.

    The city polled library patrons in December. The results were 181 votes for the bank property and 11 votes for the St. Petersburg Drive lot.

    Council member Brian Michaels said he wonders why the city spent $660,000 for the bank property if it wasn't going to be used for the library.

    "I never would have approved the purchase if I didn't think the library would go there," Michaels said.

    Beverland said he wants the library on St. Petersburg Drive because it would help broaden the city's downtown area.

    "We need an anchor in that part of town, and what better than to put a library down there?" Beverland said.

    He also questions whether the bank property is big enough to provide adequate parking. Chances are, he said, that the library would need two floors if it's built on the bank property.

    A two-story library will be more expensive, he said, because it would require more city employees to monitor both floors while the library is open and the second floor would have to be built with more stringent construction standards to support the weight of books.

    "I think I have all the good reasons to put it" on St. Petersburg Drive, Beverland said.

    He points out that the St. Petersburg Drive lot is more than twice the size of the bank property and city officials recently approved buying 2 more acres to add to that site.

    The size of the arts center location is its major advantage, according to city reports. But choosing that site would require additional planning on whether the location is large enough to fit a library and a large cultural arts center.

    Plans call for the city to build an arts center on that property, which is home to the Civic Club building. Currently, the building doubles as a city arts center.

    The St. Petersburg Drive location is "more accessible to vehicular traffic but less friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists (primarily children)," according to city reports.

    A consultant hired by the city recently told council members that the new library will cost $2.9-million and needs to be 18,200 square feet.

    The existing library at 101 State St. W is more than 80 years old. During the fiscal year ending 2001, the library circulated 107,000 items and had about 13,000 registered patrons, said Oldsmar library director Bert Weber.

    There's little doubt that the city has outgrown its current library, she said.

    "The library is being used and the city needs to provide a bigger building to accommodate all the users," Weber said.

    - Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or quioco@sptimes.com.

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