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Consultant recommends 4 new libraries

New facilities are recommended for Trinity, Wesley Chapel, Moon Lake and San Antonio with major expansions at Land O'Lakes, Dade City, Hudson and New Port Richey.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2001


Pasco County should build four new libraries, expand existing libraries, extend operating hours and add books and employees over the next 10 years to boost a system that lags behind state and national standards, according to a consulting team.

The findings are in a preliminary draft of a report expected to be presented to county commissioners later this spring. The report is only a guide and is far from final, Assistant County Administrator Dan Johnson said, and the county is not bound to enact recommendations it can't afford.

Preliminary findings call for:

An $11.5-million, 60,000-square-foot Trinity library along Little Road near State Road 54;

A $3.8-million, 15,000-square-foot library in Wesley Chapel near SR 54 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard;

A $3.2-million, 12,000-square-foot Moon Lake branch along State Road 52;

And a $2.7-million, 12,000-square-foot San Antonio branch, where land already has been promised by developers of the Cannon Ranch property.

In a 45-page draft, the Fort Lauderdale consulting firm Beach/Willey examined everything from the number of books to existing libraries at one of the youngest county library systems in the state. Pasco County has made important strides since creating a countywide library system in 1980, but work remains to be done, consultants found.

At $14.37 a year per resident, Pasco spends less per person on libraries than any other urban/suburban county in the state, except for Seminole County, which spends $14.15, according to the study. The number of books per resident is 27 percent below the state's standard for a basic library.

But the news isn't all bad. The study commends the county for its efforts over the past 20 years and reports that the libraries in the system see heavy use.

The system began with three existing libraries and expanded after voters approved a new tax to pay for additions in 1986.

"The county's investment in the library system has paid big dividends in terms of the county's educational and cultural environment," the study finds.

And despite fears last year from Dade City leaders that a system overhaul would relocate the downtown library out of town, the study recommends Dade City's Hugh Embry Library -- the smallest in the system -- be expanded at its current location starting in 2003 at a cost of $1.4-million.

Other construction recommendations: A $2.3-million expansion for the Land O'Lakes library; $211,500 for a Hudson library renovation; and $2-million for an 8,000-square-foot expansion at the Regency Park Library in New Port Richey.

As for where to get the money to pay for the overhaul, the study lists several possibilities but does not make a recommendation.

Suggestions include using state and federal grants and private and corporate donations; general property taxes; special taxing districts; an impact fee; a special sales tax or bonds.

Counties that impose new-construction impact fees for libraries charge from $21 to $186, the study states.

County officials have discussed both a 1-percent sales tax and impact fees as a way of generating more money for libraries.

The study is part of an examination of county quality-of-life issues, Johnson said. This week, commissioners examined a review of county parks and considered establishing an $892-per-new-home impact fee for new park construction.

In February, commissioners enacted a $1,694 impact fee on new homes for school construction.

- Staff writer James Thorner contributed to this report.

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