The need for a new library, larger communication center
For years, the Coos Bay leaders have expressed concern about the disrepair of the existing Coos Bay library building. Located downtown, and built on old wood pilings, a failing foundation has caused the roof to leak in multiple spots. In addition, Coos Bay council member and library advocates have expressed concerns that the location of the library, being in the tsunami inundation zone, may put residents at risk during an emergency. According to the council and proponents of the new library, it’s within the best interest of the residents to build a new library, at a different location, rather than funding the existing library location’s repairs and maintenance.
In addition to issues with the library, Coos Bay law enforcement officials feel that they have outgrown the existing 911 communications center, currently located in the same building as city hall.
Measure 6-196 asks voters if the city should issue $20 million in bonds to build the new library and communication center. The tax would be collected as a property tax at the estimated, average rate of $0.97 per $1,000 of assessed home value. For example, a $200,000 home would have an additional property tax bill of $194 per year. The bonds would mature over a period not to exceed 25 years.
Coos Bay residents are currently still paying on a bond to fund Coos Bay Fire Station 1. The city plans to use a variable tax rate. For the first four years (while residents are still paying for the fire station) the rate would be $0.45/$1,000. After four years, the rate would increase to approximately $0.95/$1,000.
The location and building design
Coos Bay leadership has wrestled with the decision of where to build the new library (provided voters support a new library, at all). A previous city council purchased a 2-acre piece of land on Ocean Boulevard, with hopes to build the library there. The current council opted against that location over traffic concerns, and the inability to expand that library in the future. City Council settled on a location in John Topit’s park, behind the Army Nation Guard Armory. The rationale for that location seems to be that 1) the city already owns that property, so there’s one less thing to buy, and 2)
The addition of a 911 communications center
The measure includes more than just the construction of the library. The project will actually be a combined library and 911 communication center. The decision to include a 911 communications center in the plans was somewhat…. spontaneous. Was the decision to include the 911 communication center in the plans merely a ploy by the city leadership to bolster support for the library? It very well may have been just that.
Political considerations, objections to site choice
The proposed site for the new library seems to be a point of contention. The concerns voiced by residents include:
- Concerns over an existing, large homeless population in John Topit’s Park
- Concerns over losing a draw to the downtown area, which is home to many of the city’s businesses
- Concerns over the proximity to the community college, which has a library that’s available to the public
It’s not just the location that’s going to dissuade many voters. Coos Bay residents are already still paying on a $60 million school bond, which passed a few years ago, and, of course, there’s also the effects of inflation, an expensive housing stock, and high gas prices, which will be weighing heavily on voters’ minds.
The election, and other measures
Election day is May 17, 2022. Other measures on the ballot include: Measure 6-194, a Coos County measuring which seeks to add a 9.5% lodging tax to Charleston area lodging facilities, and Measure 6-195, a North Bend School District measure, which would implement $22.6 million in bonds for North Bend school improvements.