TILLAMOOK - The Tillamook County Library Board of Directors is prepared to again ask local voters to approve a $3 million to $4 million bond levy to construct a new main library building in Tillamook - but not before presenting a breakdown of what it would cost to expand and improve the current central branch.

"They haven't decided yet, but they're aiming for the September ballot," said Sara Charlton, county library director.

A similar levy failed narrowly last fall. According to Charlton, many patrons have since asked why the existing main library can't be enlarged and retrofitted to withstand potential earthquakes and otherwise meet modern building code requirements. INFORMATION A presentation of expanding and improving the current Tillamook Central Library will be presented along with plans for a new structure at noon March 27 at the Tillamook Library. For information, call (503) 842-4792."This building isn't worth fixing up," she said. "But people want to see that on paper."

With that in mind, the board - which is "committed to a new building" - asked architect Rich Turi to draft plans for expanding and improving the current building. The North Bend architect, who specializes in designing small libraries, intends to present his findings alongside plans for a new building March 27.

Meanwhile, the Tillamook County Library Foundation continues to raise funds for a new building by holding dinners, raffles and other events. "We have $78,000 in the bank," noted Charlton. U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith recently informed the foundation of impending receipt of a $70,000 federal grant.

Charlton said grants such as that are awarded based on a show of local commitment. She cites progress on the purchase of former Copeland Lumber property, located adjacent to the existing main library, in Tillamook, as proof that those behind the project are serious. The board hopes to eventually build a new main library on the former retail lumber company site. By being conservative with the county library budget, the board has been able to make double payments on the land, helping it to close in on the overall $450,000 purchase price, she added.

Still, "Before we apply to a major foundation, they want to see a bond levy pass - they want a local commitment. They won't fund a 'maybe' project."

The main reason the board is leaning toward seeking a bond levy in September is that current bond rates are at nine cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, versus 10 cents per $1,000 last fall. "They want to grab that low bond rate instead of waiting for the economy to improve when it could be twice that amount."

Charlton attributes last year's defeat at the ballot, in part, to a misunderstanding among North and South County patrons regarding what the main library does for respective branch libraries. "One thing I think everyone learned was to promote services," she said. "A lot of people don't realize what the main library does for them."

The Tillamook central library acts as the nerve center of the county library system, said Charlton. Staff there relieve staff at branch libraries in Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Garibaldi, Bay City and Pacific City. They also supply materials, do cataloging and perform reference services. "When someone goes to the Manzanita branch and asks a question, staff contact one of us at the main library. We look up the information. "

The central library also provides computers for branches, said Charlton. "And I'm the computer geek who works on them."

Turi will present his findings to the board at noon March 27 at the Tillamook Library. The meeting is open to the public.

In addition to the main library and branches, the county library system includes the Bookmobile.

For more information, call (503) 842-4792.

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