The school district had originally planned to wait to sell the property until construction finished on the new middle school across the street, but Superintendent Kevin Mitchell said the district now plans to sell the property because “We believe the market to sell is good now.”
Five residents asked the school district to work with the Park County Commission to use that land for a new Powell Branch Library.
“I know that maybe someone wants to buy that property and there’s probably a chance to make some good money on it,” said Karen Roles of Powell, who spoke in favor of saving the land for a library. “And it’s really hard to wait, because we know that a library’s not going to happen overnight.”
Roles said she understands that Park County Commission, which ultimately
controls the county’s library system, is focused on the new building at the fairgrounds right now. The process of funding and building a new library in Powell would take time, she said.
Roles also said that in Park County, “Every time we talk about spending public money on something new, people get cranky.”
Park County Library Director Frances Clymer noted that Powell’s population has grown in recent years and told the school board she believes the community will continue to grow.
“Doing a real serious analysis of the Powell library and the surrounding communities has brought to light the fact that the library is considerably smaller than it needs to be today,” Clymer said, adding more space will be needed 10 years from now.
She said a lot of children use the library, but the facility lacks “adequate space to provide the kinds of programs that they really need so they will enjoy lifelong learning.”
She noted the library also is used by teens and adults who want to continue learning.
“I urge you to continue thinking about using this space for a library,” she said.
Park County Commissioner Tim French told the school board there are a lot of factors at play for a new library in Powell.
“We’re not opposed to a new library in Powell,” French said of the commissioners. “It’s just the timing and the need.”
He noted that the new library in Cody, which opened in 2008, took a long time to plan and fund, and also was done at a reduced cost. French said a new Powell library likely would cost between $7-$10 million to build.
“It’s something that the commissioners are willing to look at,” French said. “It’s not going to happen any time real soon ... in the future, sure, there probably will be a need, but we’re just trying to determine when and just how much we can afford.”
While local residents have spoken in favor of seeing a library at the 200 block of North Evarts, no formal request has been made by the Park County Commission, said Superintendent Mitchell.
“The commissioners have not approached the board about the land,” he said in an email Monday. “I asked the Friends of the Library months ago to have the commissioners ask the board for the property. Nothing has taken place.”
School board chairman Rob McCray thanked residents for their comments during the Aug. 12 public hearing, and said the board will take the comments under advisement.
“You’re right that it’s not an easy process to decide what to do with that,” McCray said. “Always in the back of our minds, we have to think about what’s best for the students we serve everyday.”
The school board is slated to consider the proposed disposal of the property at its Aug. 26 meeting, McCray said Monday.
“They have not officially voted on the disposal yet,” Mitchell said. “They needed the public hearing first. They may decide to have a public auction instead of sealed bids.”
Library leaders said they want to see Powell have an expanded and updated library like Cody’s. Anna Sapp, a library board member, said when you look at Cody and the increase in usage statistics with the new library, “it’s pretty incredible.”
“We need that here. We need that opportunity for our community,” Sapp said.
She said the Powell library building is old and does not have adequate space for its collections and programming, and there’s no room to expand.
Dave Burke, a former county commissioner, asked the school board to research using the land for a new library, saying it was an old building when he was a kid.
“Powell could use a new library, and I see this land as the greatest opportunity if you folks could work with the Powell library system and the county commissioners, you may have the greatest opportunity to help Park County obtain a new library in Powell,” Burke said at the hearing. “As a school district, you provide excellent eduction for the children, and this would be a good opportunity to provide education for the general public for years and years to come through a new library.”
Roles said a lot of kids use the library after school, “and I suspect there are kids who do not have anywhere else to go.”
“I really would like to see that pairing remain — the library and the middle school right in the center of town,” Roles said.
Sue Bonner, a former library board member, called the land on North Evarts Street a “perfect” location for a new library, and said the school board can help.
“First of all, our job is to convince the county commissioners that we can afford to have a new library,” Bonner said. “The need is definitely there.”