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Yachats Finance Committee suggests using $600K from urban renewal district to help build new library

Front view of a rural public library
Quinton Smith
Yachats News
The city of Yachats and its Library Commission want to now tear down the 50-year-old library on West Seventh Street and replace it with a 2,400 square foot building. 

This story was originally published on YachatsNews.com and is used with permission.

With sharpened pencils and a well-oiled abacus, the Yachats finance committee Tuesday divined a path for the city to better manage tax collection while also opening the municipal wallet to help pay for a new library.

City manager Bobbi Price will take the committee’s recommendations to the city council which will decide whether to allocate $600,000 for the library, adjust how vacation rental home income is reported, and whether unused rental licenses should be revoked.

There was also discussion about dropping the hammer on the only restaurant in town that refuses to pay its food and beverage tax or even acknowledge the city’s efforts to collect what with interest and penalties now amounts to $10,844.

The clock is ticking to start work on the library if it wants to hold onto a $250,000 grant from The Ford Family Foundation that expires if the project does not begin by June. A $20,000 grant from the Roundhouse Foundation specifies work needs to begin by July.

The Yachats Library Commission has been discussing how best to make upgrades to the 50-year-old library for five years. Until last fall, a plan to renovate and expand the building on West Seventh Street to the tune of just over $1 million seemed straightforward enough. Plans were drawn to expand from its current 1,200 square feet to 2,400 square feet and fundraising ramped up.

But that changed in November when soil tests revealed the ground the library sits on is too unstable to support expansion without major and expensive foundation work. The project’s design company determined it would be less expensive to demolish the building and rebuild on the same site at an approximate cost of $1.46 million – about $500,000 more than the city and Friends of Yachats Library have via grants, donations and $265,000 currently set aside in the city budget.

The commission began looking for more grants to cover the increased cost while also consulting with the finance committee.

Portrait of a gray-haired man
Yachats News
Tom Lauritzen

Finance committee member Tom Lauritzen broke out the city’s spreadsheets and dug into the numbers to see if the city could move funds around to accommodate the shortfall in construction costs.

At Tuesday’s finance committee meeting Lauritzen announced “I think I have a solution” and then proceeded to lay out a plan.

“They have done a phenomenal job of raising money on their own,” he said of the library commission and Friends group. “They’ve raised close to a million dollars.”

They even approached the Oregon Legislature during its special session in February and March to see if the state would provide the funding shortfall, Lauritzen said, but did not make the cut.

“So, I read through the urban renewal plan that is on the city’s website and it allows us to create projects that are … within the urban renewal district,” Lauritzen said. It also allows urban renewal district funds to be used for rejuvenating and repairing public buildings, he added.

Lauritzen explained that by amending the urban renewal plan for fiscal 2024-25, money can be re-directed to free-up $600,000 more for the library.

Dipping into funds designated for “sewer plant, pump stations and other improvements” will make the difference without affecting the long-term revenue over the life of the urban renewal plan that funds those projects. Lauritzen projected that the urban renewal district that funds water and wastewater projects will accumulate $27.8 million by 2042.

“It will have a minimal impact on our 20-year plans, probably not even measurable,” Lauritzen said. “The interest alone might pay for that over a 20-year period.”

The solution means the city and its library commission will not be burdened by further fundraising or risk losing the grants. A much smaller version of the library will move to Room 7 in the Commons during construction.

The finance committee supported Lauritzen’s idea which will now be forwarded to the city council for consideration.