Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

I thought it was only mainstream media that indulged in fake news…but now it looks like our local paper has joined the parade. Well, perhaps it’s not fake news but the headline and article are certainly misleading. The headline reads, Heroes Regional Park Library costs rising. It implies that the West Branch Library costs are too expensive to merit its construction. Here is the link: http://www.glendalestar.com/news/article_61165fb2-a7c2-11e7-b123-9fc4a27d9987.html .

The initial estimate for construction of the West Branch library has been elusive from the start. The $2.7 million dollar figure used by Director Erik Strunk in 2016 was no more than an educated guesstimate as no design work had been done when this item came before city council in a May 5, 2016 workshop. Here is the link: https://www.glendaleaz.com/clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/2016/0405/Minutes.pdf .

The original estimate did not include technology or underground infrastructure costs. The increase now accounts for those costs.

While it is entirely appropriate to offer an explanation of why construction costs for the West Branch library have increased by over a million dollars, the tone of the article seems to question why an increase is merited for this library branch. It’s almost as if the underlying question is the worthiness of such an increase in our part of town. The implication being do we deserve it?

Perhaps a little history is in order. In April of 1997, twenty years ago, staff brought forward an estimated cost to build the Foothills Library branch of $5.1 million. A year later, in the city’s Fiscal Year 1998-99 Budget book the cost had risen to $6.3 million, an increase of $1.2 million. There was no Glendale Star article questioning that increase…after all, it was for the Arrowhead area, you know. Also keep in mind, the Foothills Library branch at $6.3 million was in dollars of twenty years ago. Obviously, inflation and the rising cost of everything should be considered when considering the cost estimate for the West Branch library.

In Fiscal Year 2008-09 nearly $7 million was budgeted for the West Branch library. That amount was budgeted after a majority of council in Fiscal Year 2006 had diverted $6 million for the library to the Public Safety Training Center.

Then there is the issue raised of modular versus a brick and mortar building. Previously Director Strunk indicated that the costs of either modular or brick and mortar were comparable. Ever since west area Glendale residents heard of the possible modular building they have been vehemently opposed. They were insulted that the city thought so little of them that all they deserved was a temporary modular building. They insisted on brick and mortar. They conveyed this sentiment to staff at every opportunity.

It’s also important to note that recently I received a call from a Glendale resident who asked to remain anonymous, as he worked in the modular building industry for over 30 years. If anyone should know about modular buildings it would be this person. He wanted me to know how pleased he was, after viewing a recent council workshop discussion on the issue, that the city was pursuing brick and mortar construction. He said that modular constructed buildings simply do not last beyond about 7 to 8 years, at which time they begin to deteriorate. He felt that something as important as a city library merited hard construction and that it would be a structure lasting far longer than anything in the modular industry. He also said that special construction of a modular designed to be expandable increased ordinary modular construction costs considerably.

It is also instructive to include some of the discussion that occurred at the April 5, 2016 council workshop. Here are just two excerpts of note:

“Councilmember Aldama asked if it would be the intent to build onto this facility in the future.

Mr. Strunk said they asked this project to be designed to allow future expansion and growth.  The design will accommodate that growth.  He explained the vision for this project is a 33,500 square foot library.

Councilmember Aldama asked if the initial project was considered Phase 1 and if a funding mechanism would be put in place to ensure completion of this project.

Mr. Strunk said he would await Council direction on that issue, but park facilities have been phased in before.”

And this, “Councilmember Malnar said the $2.7 million was being taken away from providing additional services at other Glendale libraries.  He asked if the city was losing more than they were gaining by using those funds to build another library.

Mr. Strunk said the $2.7 million is development impact fee money was specifically collected for a library.  They can be used to construct, equip, build and open a new library.  They cannot be used for operating funds. “

The topic concluded with the following, “Mayor Weiers said there is a consensus to continue on with this project. Mr. Strunk asked if consensus meant to commence design work on the Heroes Park concept. Mayor Weiers said that is the next step.”

Let’s acknowledge that the West Branch library has been in the city’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) since 1998…going on twenty years. Let’s also acknowledge that during the 20 year reign of the previous mayor it was never destined to be built. Roadblocks were manufactured at every turn to prevent its construction.

It’s time for everyone, including the Glendale Star, to stop sniveling about a major infrastructure project, the West Branch library, and the worthiness of its construction in west Glendale. Instead, it’s time to rejoice in the fact that due to its economic recovery, the city has finally made good on a twenty year old promise…long overdue.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 


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