Rochelle News-Leader | Creston Library officials prepare for referendum on new building on June 28

CRESTON — Creston-Dement Library District officials are preparing for a June 28 referendum on election day for district residents 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 this amount will be covered by grants. The amount of bail the district will seek is $2.2 million.

With an interest rate of 3.75%, which is the lowest and where the market is right now, the property tax increase for a homeowner of $100,000 would be $72 on a annual. At 4.75%, the worst-case scenario for an interest rate, that’s a property tax increase of $79 per year for a $100,000 home.

In 1992, the Creston-Dement Public Library District became a tax agency. It covers more than Creston, extending around to the edge of Lee County and towards Hillcrest. About 950 to 1,000 people live in the library district, said library board chairman Doug Kroupa.

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 for the library to outgrow 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 walking down Main Street if the referendum passes will be a new library of about 7,500 square feet. Now is the perfect time to do it. We are at low interest rates. Material prices are falling. We are running out of space at this establishment.

In recent years, fundraisers have been held and donations have been received in an effort to bring a new library to Creston. This money was used for planning and legal processes. Kroupa said the library would be appropriate for a town the size of Creston.

“We don’t plan to build anything off limits,” Kroupa said. “We built it with growth in mind so as the community grows we can add to the library if we need to.”

The current Creston Library is not handicapped accessible. The property’s current bathrooms have had issues and older people 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 these issues.

“And the kids’ area will be bigger and more accessible,” said library manager Kristi Scherer. “The library will be so much more easily accessible.”

Kroupa said recent efforts leading up to the referendum have included signs to vote yes on the issue on June 28. Presentations were made by members of the Library Board at meetings of other government bodies. A meeting was held earlier this year to discuss the details of the proposed new library. Raising awareness on social networks has been carried out.

Library board members said June 7 that they were hopeful as the referendum vote neared and felt positive after the work it took to get there.

“We believe in what we’re doing and we think it’s what this city needs,” said board member Mary Korth.

If the referendum passes at the end of the month, construction will likely begin in 2023. The library board has worked with an architect and drawn up plans. The new library would be a high-sustainability building with a children’s area, an adult area, study rooms, meeting facilities, a staff area, bathrooms that could be used as shelters from storms, storage, patio, handicapped parking and 30- on-site parking.

Until 2009, the library had 60-90 patrons who came 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 various times. Computers and resources have been added, such as 3D printing and model rockets.

Kroupa said he believes a new library will help increase Creston’s Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) and make the village more attractive to potential residents.

If the referendum result is 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 it in a facility that meets the needs of the city,” Kroupa said. “It’s a big building we’re in right now, but we’re running out of space and it’s hard for people to get in and out. It would be disappointing if it didn’t pass. If we did it again the following year, we know it will cost even more, as interest rates will rise along with building costs. Now is the perfect time to launch a project like this in town.

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

“We are a very community-minded organization,” Kroupa said. “We are constantly refocusing on what is next. It’s what we need today and tomorrow as we continue to grow.”