Summit County commissioners discuss Silverthorne library expansion plans

With an expansion of the North Branch Library on the way, Summit County officials are working to ensure the space will serve everyone in the community for as long as it needs to.

At a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session meeting Tuesday, Dec. 15, county officials and representatives of Vega Architecture — the firm designing the expansion — presented plans for the library. The meeting served as an opportunity to discuss adding more square footage to the library to address projected growth in Silverthorne’s population.

Dale Stein, capital projects manager at the county, presented two options for an expansion of the library, which is currently about 6,000 square feet. One of the options would upgrade the library to 9,500 square feet, which would be a 10-year build out, and another would upgrade it to 12,000 square feet, which is a 20-year build out.

Although the county is set on expanding the library, some officials are hesitant to more forward with the 12,000-foot expansion, Stein said.

“We’re very cautious about (the 12,000-square-foot upgrade), given the nature of libraries and not knowing exactly what in 20 years we’re going to find for libraries,” he said.

Stein said more space would allow for an expanded teen area, more room for Spanish-speaking literature or outdoor space that works for all seasons. In the initial presentations about the expansion, Commissioner Thomas Davidson also pushed for more thought behind how the library can serve people who don’t have access to internet at home.

While the plans don’t include more computers in the library, they do include more space for studying. Library Director Stephanie Ralph said the library is also looking to add a stock of laptops that people can check out for use in the library.

However, the greater the expansion, the greater the cost of the project, which is projected at $2 million. Of that $2 million, $1 million is being raised by the Library Foundation.

The expansion to 12,000 square feet would increase the cost of the project to $3 million while the expansion to 9,500 square feet would add $300,000 to the project cost, Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine said.

If the commissioners ultimately go for the 12,000-foot option, it would mean a longer build time, as well. David Grooms, owner and president of Vega Architecture, said the expansion to 12,000 square feet would mean three to four more months in the design phase with possibly more time added in the build phase.

At the meeting, commissioners expressed split opinions on which expansion would be best.

“I’m more in the camp of the 9,500 (expansion),” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. “If we’re going to get that 12,000 (square foot expansion), I really feel strongly on building a whole new library in Silverthorne.”

Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier agreed with Lawrence that the expansion to 9,500 square feet would be better from a financial perspective.

However, Davidson said he believes the county has the finances to expand the library to 12,000 square feet and made the point that the county has never built a building it didn’t ultimately outgrow.

“We are limiting ourselves for reasons that shouldn’t be limiting the scope and size of this project,” he said. “I’m not saying the foundation has to raise $1 more than we’ve identified. I’m sure that we have got the kind of reserves that would allow us to move forward with this project and other projects on the list. The day will be here before we know it when somebody will say, ’Wow we should’ve built it bigger.’”

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