Creston library officials prepare for new building referendum June 28

Creston-Dement Library District officials are preparing for a June 28 election day referendum for residents of the district to decide whether or not it gets a new library building.

‘We believe in what we're doing and we believe this is what this town needs’

CRESTON —  Creston-Dement Library District officials are preparing for a June 28 election day referendum for residents of the district to decide whether or not it gets a new library building.

The total cost of the project is $2.6 million. At least $400,000 of that will be covered by grant dollars. The bond amount the district will ask for is $2.2 million. 

With a 3.75 percent interest rate, which is the lowest and where the market is now, the property tax increase on a homeowner with a $100,000 home would be $72 on an annual basis. At 4.75 percent, the worst scenario for an interest rate, it's a $79 year property tax increase for a $100,000 home. 

In 1992, the Creston-Dement Public Library District became a taxing body. It covers more than Creston, expanding into the surrounding area to the edge of Lee County and towards Hillcrest. About 950-1,000 people live in the library district, Library Board President Doug Kroupa said. 

The process of bringing a new library to Creston has taken about 10 years so far, Kroupa said. The main reason for the desire for a new building is the library outgrowing its current space at 107 S. Main St. The new library would be built at the corner of Main and Cederholm Streets on land that was donated years ago for a new library.

“The library is a very important part of the community,” Kroupa said. “What we'll see in town coming down Main Street if the referendum passes will be a new library that will be just about 7,500 square feet. This is a great time to do it. We're at low interest rates. The prices of materials are coming down. We're out of room in this facility.”

In recent years, fundraisers have been done and donations have been received in the effort to bring a new library to Creston. That money has been used for the planning and legal processes. Kroupa said the library will be appropriate for a town of Creston’s size.

“We're not planning on building anything that’s out of bounds,” Kroupa said. “We built it with growth in mind so as the community grows, we can add on to the library if we need to.”

Creston’s current library is not handicap accessible. The current bathrooms at the facility have had issues and senior citizens sometimes struggle with the stairs at the entrance. There is no storm shelter at the current location. The new library has plans for all of those issues.

“And the kids area will be bigger and more accessible,” Library Director Kristi Scherer said. “The library will be so much more readily available.”

Kroupa said recent efforts leading up to the referendum have included signs being put up to vote yes on the issue on June 28. Presentations have been made by library board members at meetings of other government bodies. A meeting was held earlier this year to discuss details of the proposed new library. Social media outreach has been done. 

Library board members said June 7 that they’re hopeful with the referendum vote approaching and that they feel positive after the work it took to get to this point.

“We believe in what we're doing and we believe this is what this town needs,” Board Member Mary Korth said.

If the referendum passes at the end of the month, construction would likely start in 2023. The library board has worked with an architect and has plans made up. The new library would be a high-durability building with a children's area, adult area, study rooms, facility for meetings, a staff area, bathrooms that could be used as storm shelters, storage space, a patio, handicap parking and a 30-spot parking lot.  

Up until 2009, the library had 60-90 patrons come in monthly and operated 15-20 hours a week. In 2010, changes were made and the library is now open over 40 hours a week and has seen 500 patrons a month at different times. Computers and resources have been added such as 3-D printing and model rocketry. 

Kroupa said he believes a new library will help to grow Creston’s equalized assessed value (EAV) and make the village more attractive to prospective residents.

If the referendum’s result is a no, the library will continue to do its best to provide services in the space it has, Kroupa said. 

“It would be so much nicer to do that in a facility that is commensurate with the town’s needs,” Kroupa said. “This is a great building we're in now, but we're just flat out running out of room and it's difficult for people to get in and out. It would be disappointing if it wasn't voted in. If we did it again the year after, we know it's going to be even more expensive with interest rates going up along with building costs. This is an opportune time to get a project like this going in town.”

The new library venture is “probably the biggest project” in Creston over the past 10 years, Kroupa said. He takes pride in the library board always looking to the future, and the June 28 referendum is an example of that.

“We're a very responsive organization to the community's needs,” Kroupa said. “We constantly refocus on what's next. This is what we need for today and tomorrow as we continue to grow."