Friends of the library raise $19,000 to enlarge cramped buildingWARRENTON - The tiny parking lot at the Warrenton Community Library was completely full on a recent afternoon.

All four of the library's computers, donated by the Gates Foundation, were in use, and three patrons were browsing the neatly organized shelves.

An older couple pedaled up on bicycles with books to contribute to the library's never-ending book sale. As usual, it was going on in the back room, where a woman was already searching for bargains.

Nearby a small area was stocked with children's books and furnished with a kid-size table and chairs, with colorful posters decorating the walls. And in the library's main room, where 13,000 books line the shelves, Gillian Maggert was helping a man find a novel about the Civil War.

The Warrenton library is well used, so much so that its supporters plan to construct an addition.

But concluding that story may not be easy.

DedicationMaggert, a retired marine biologist and the library's only paid employee, was quick to point out that she's not a librarian, but a part-time site manager. But her devotion to her new vocation is obvious.

Maggert moved to Warrenton in 1990 with her husband, Jim, after vacationing in the area since 1966.

"I just came down and volunteered one day, and they couldn't get rid of me," she joked. She reads every month to children at Warrenton Head Start, and invites the 50 or 60 kids in the program on an outing to the library each November, all part of what she considers her "library service."

The Warrenton Community Library opened its doors in the former Hammond Town Hall in September, 1994, thanks to a massive community effort spearheaded by the nonprofit Friends of the Warrenton Library. Money from a five-year local option property tax levy, approved in by voters in November, 2002, pays the library's bills: garbage collection, heat, water, electricity, the four phone lines that link the computers to the Internet and Maggert's modest salary. The levy costs property owners 9.5 cents a year per $1,000 of assessed property value. It's expected to raise $134,000 during the five-year period.

The building is owned by the city of Warrenton, which allows the library to use it rent-free. But it's not nearly big enough to be a library. Just 15 feet wide and 60 feet long, it was moved to its present location at 861 Pacific Drive from nearby Fort Stevens in the early 1900s, where it may have been used as a barracks. Its size and configuration put severe limits on the library's inventory, Maggert said. There's no room for periodicals, or for more than one copy of a book.

"We're just stuffed in there," said Jan Gannaway, president of Friends of the Warrenton Library.

However, that could change now that the Friends group has raised $19,000 for expansion.

Never a group to rest on its laurels, Friends continued its fund-raising efforts over the years since the library opened, with the goal of accumulating enough money to expand its library's cramped quarters. Last year, the group reached its goal and turned the money over to the city of Warrenton to build a 350 square foot addition.

Steady revenueThere were no bake sales, no car washes, Gannaway said, just steady revenue trickling in day by day from the perpetual book sale in the back room.

"It's like a good yard sale," Gannaway explained. The books are donated, sometimes in large numbers. The Nehalem library, for example, donates hundreds of books to Warrenton every year, Gannaway said, and it takes Maggert all year to sell them. "People literally go out with boxes full of books. Little by little, inch by inch, we have saved diligently for these 10 years," Gannaway said.

With the tedious fund-raising process behind them, Friends members thought the hard part was over. But their collective sigh of relief turned out to be premature. A decade ago the group was able to accept help from local businesses and community members who donated not only books and materials, but also cash, time and services to extensively remodel the 100-year-old building, and upgrade its wiring, heating and plumbing.

That was fine then, but the rules are completely different now that the library has become a public building. With that status comes strict state and federal regulations - and reams of red tape.

Gannaway said the project seemed simple to her, but it's been over a year and it still hasn't gotten off the ground. "I think it'll get done, but I've been pretty frustrated," Gannaway said. "I had it all laid out and people who were willing to help. It seemed like such a good thing for a little city without much money."

Working with cityPatrick Wingard, Warrenton's planning director, is working closely with the Friends to overcome the obstacles. "No one wants it more than Patrick. He's as frustrated as I am," Gannaway said.

Wingard said the project probably was more difficult than the Friends realized, because it's a public building and, therefore, in a special category. "It's nothing like a private person trying to build an addition onto their home," he explained. For example, the city can't use "no bid contracts," Wingard said. "We have to consider the value of a donation which could be viewed by other contractors as discriminating against them."

He said donations can be accepted, but the value has to be built into the contract. Once the contract reaches a $25,000 threshold, the Davis-Bacon law goes into effect, which means anybody working on the job site must be paid a set amount, per state Bureau of Labor and Industries rules, Wingard explained.

A big hurdle is complying with Americans with Disabilities Act rules. The ramp originally put in to make the library accessible to handicapped people is too steep, he said, and will have to be replaced. The sink and toilet in the early 1900s-era unisex bathroom must swap places, and grab rails need to be installed. However, the money spent on ADA upgrades can't amount to more than 25 percent of the total cost of the project, Wingard said.

And there's no additional money for add-ons or over-runs.

Local architect Tom Potter has drawn up some plans for the addition, which Wingard said were needed before the project could go out to bid. Those plans will go before Warrenton's historic review commission Oct. 13. If the plans are approved, Wingard said he would finalize specifications and initiate the bid process for actual construction.

"Libraries are so important to communities. If we have a little patience, I think we'll get through this, and build this addition so people can have a little more elbow room," Wingard said. "We'll find a way to make it happen."


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