September 16, 2001 11:00 pm

We agree with City of La Grande officials that we need a new library. After all, the current library is old and in need of upgrades to make it accessible under the Americans With Disabilities Act. There is limited parking. Many library patrons use the lot across the street, which is not owned by the city or the library. People are running a risk by parking on private property.

What we dont agree with is the site the library commission keeps pushing. The current Safeway site would better serve the community and anchor the downtown as a potential retail site.

And even though some city officials are concerned that the property could sit unoccupied for many years, a look around communities similar to La Grande would show that most of those old Safeway buildings have been turned into good use by private investors.

In an area the size of Union County, a sole city library seems wrong for the duplicity of services. At the same time the City of La Grande has been talking about building a new 20,000-square-foot library, Eastern Oregon University is planning to build a new library.

Finally, since the current public library does not charge county residents a fee to use the city library, then its time for the city, county and university to come together to work out the plans to create a new joint library complex.

We suggest that a blue ribbon committee be established to work on developing a multi-use library. No staff members of either the city or university library should serve on the committee. They should be used as resources only.

To make the committee representative, we suggest that one city councilor from each of the countys cities be selected, along with a county commissioner, a representative from the university and several citizens. Goals might include a feasibility study, identifying funding sources, a timetable to accomplish the project, the gathering of citizen input and collecting other pertinent information.

The ultimate goal should be to provide all citizens of Union County a top-notch library that serves the needs of the public and private sectors and students throughout the area. There isnt any reason for taxpayers to waste the limited resources we have to build two libraries. We have a unique opportunity to work together to show our fellow Oregonians that the people in our county can cooperate for the good of everyone.

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