October 8, 2010

Friends nix library-offices behind Old Courthouse
By Mike Potter
Staff Writer

The ongoing drama surrounding the new Fairplay Library has undergone yet another twist: A spokesman for the Friends of the Fairplay Library appeared before Park County's commissioners at a work session on Sept. 29 and said the library will be built separately from county offices.

In a prepared statement, the spokesman, Keith Sovereign cited eight years of efforts by the Friends of the library and recent "discouraging news on funding sources that we were counting on."

"Therefore, Friends of the Fairplay Library, after considerable discussion, is withdrawing from the collaboration with the county to build a building behind the old courthouse," he said.

Specifically the library was looking for grant money from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Energy and Mineral Impact AssistanceFund to help fund the construction of a joint project that would include the Fairplay Library and Park County offices.

"We were looking for $500,000 (from DOLA)," said Park County Libraries Director Patty Chapman. That money would have been a cornerstone in the ability to secure other grants, she said.

As was the intention eight years ago, the Friends still want to get a library built without taxpayer money, and they still want to donate the building to the county. The difference is that now they are looking at constructing a standalone building rather than one with county offices.

The Friends said they wanted to "withdraw into a period of contemplation, discussion and planning," according to the prepared statement.

The proposed location for the new library has shifted several times over the years. Originally it was going to be near the courthouse and District Attorney's Offices in Fairplay. Then the fairgrounds was considered a likely site. Then land owned by the South Park Park and Recreation District was considered almost a sure thing. That fell through, and space behind the Old Courthouse was proposed.

That new building behind the Old Courthouse would have housed county offices and the new library facilities and would have cost about $3.5 million, said Chapman.

Architectural drawings and a model of the building were produced, but in light of the DOLA funding becoming unavailable, the Friends have taken a new course.

Chapman said that the separation from the county offices would mean a lower cost and fewer difficulties with having to coordinate with different entities. She said she was hoping a standalone library might cost $1 million.

Disappointment

Park County Commissioner John Tighe, who has been supportive of the building of the library and office building, said he understood the disappointment of the Friends of the Fairplay Library.

"I understand fully where they're coming from with it," he said.

Tighe said the county was looking at using the office space to provide badly needed offices for overcrowded departments. He said it would have used money it was paying for rent on temporary offices to pay to help cover the expense of the building.

The DOLA money that would have helped build the county offices and the library would also have been tapped to help build a new communications center.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter announced on Aug. 23 that he was using money from the DOLA Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Fund (EIAF) to balance the state budget, a move Tighe has been critical of since its announcement.

"Frankly, the governor has taken that money, mineral impact money, that we could have used for the communications center and also for this library, to balance the state budget," he said. "The state trying to balance its budget on the back of the rural counties, it's wrong."

Chapman agreed that the county sharing the cost of the library with the Friends of the library was a win-win for both.

"I really did like the combination of offices and what we could do for the community with that design behind the Old Courthouse," she said. "I think the [Friends of the Fairplay Library] are right in stepping back and seeing what can be done sooner rather than later."

When asked about waiting for the DOLA grant money to be reinstated, Chapman said there wasn't a guarantee about when it might be available.

"I'm not holding my breath for anything from DOLA," she said.

Numbers

About $172,000 has been spent on design and engineering so far, excluding $70,000 for change orders.

Of that amount the Friends have put in $55,000. The Friends received a $150,000 donation from one donor, plus other donations and funds raised, and they have about $135,000 left, Chapman said.

Besides the $55,000 from the Friends, the $172,000 was paid for through the following sources: a $19,050 grant (which could have gone to $20,000) from the Governor's Energy Office; an $87,000 grant from DOLA for design and engineering; and $10,000 in federal funds through the county for Human Services.

Two change orders have accounted for another $70,000 in expenditures. One was due to the changed location from the rec center location to the Old Courthouse location. The other had to do with all the historical concerns with attaching to the Old Courthouse.

That $70,000 for the change orders was paid for from a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant for $130,000 that the county received to give to the library. So $60,000 of the GOCO grant has still not been used, said Chapman.

Salvaging what has been done so far. But all the work up until this point hasn't been a total loss.

Chapman said some of the ideas and designs already completed could be used for the new building at a different location.

Even if the Old Courthouse location isn't used, much of what was learned during the design and engineering phase of the project could be used at another location for both the library and county offices, according to Chapman.

But what would happen to the Old Courthouse building if a new library is built at another location?

Linda Balough, director of the Park County Office of Historic Preservation, said it was too soon to really start worrying about the fate of the old building.

"Nothing is going to happen any time soon with any of it," she said.

But whatever happens, the aim is to preserve the building.

"I think at this point, lets wait and see what happens, and I'll do everything in my power to make sure that the Old Courthouse continues to be healthy," she said.

- Tom Locke contributed to this article.

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