(JOHNSON COUNTY) - The debate over whether to expand the Johnson County Public Library with taxpayer dollars became more intense weeks before the May 8 referendum vote.
The library is planning a $30 million project that would include building a two story, 70,000-square foot library in downtown Franklin, as well as renovating the existing Franklin and White River branches.
Officials said the main Franklin branch was built 25 years ago, but library visits have increased 36 percent since 2000.
Johnson County Public Library Director Beverly Martin said that the economy's current climate is perfect for expanding the library.
"From my point of view, it's the right time," Martin said. "Interest rates are low and construction costs are at their lowest. The need exists and it's time to move forward."
If the bond issue is approved, a taxpayer with a $200,000 home would pay an extra $43 per year in property taxes for 20 years.
Library officials said they are confident that taxpayers will see a new and improved library as a worthwhile investment.
"It's my job to be optimistic," said Martin. "It's something we've been working on since 2004."
But some taxpayers have launched a Vote No campaign, saying the project will cost taxpayers too much.
Vote No Spokesman Kyle Kasting said that the expansion would be too costly.
""$30 million and 70,000-square feet is too big and too expensive," Kasting said. "People will see their taxes increase. Homeowners, farmers, businesses, all of them will see an increase in taxes."
In addition to construction costs, a revamped library will be more expensive to run, RTV6's Kara Kenney reported.
Operational costs would increase 3.3 percent a year or an extra $198,000 annually, officials said.
"Those costs will be passed on to the taxpayers," Kasting said. "They're going to increase the current size of the library (more than) three times."
The current Franklin Branch is 21,500 square feet. If the referendum is approved, the new Franklin branch at the southwest corner of Jefferson and Jackson streets will be 70,000-square feet and provide 250 parking spaces.
According to Johnson County library officials, similar size communities typically have libraries in the 70,000-square foot to 90,000-square foot range.
Both sides are confident heading into the May 8 primary vote.
"We have an overwhelming amount of support," Kasting said. "We had to order more yard signs just last week because we ran out."
"I hope when people go to the polls they make informed decisions," said Martin. "That's the best I can ask."
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