April 27, 2001 11:00 pm

It is time for officials from the City of La Grande and Eastern Oregon University to sit down and discuss how they can build a new library together. As taxpayer money continues to dry up, public organizations need to find ways to cooperate to provide more for less.

Both the city and the university have set their sights on new libraries.

The city recently awarded a contract to W.C. Construction of Elgin to build a new fire station. The city also is continuing its efforts to purchase the Bohnenkamp property, the fire-blighted site downtown. And La Grande officials have been trying to get the Safeway Corporation to sell, lease, or donate its current supermarket site to the city for a public library, eliminating valuable downtown retail space from the scene.

The city also has planned a multi-million dollar sewage treatment facility and is buying land along Gekeler Lane for future economic development. All this while funding for city government continues to shrink. How far can the city push taxpayers before they say no to more spending?

The university is in the midst of a $32 million fund-raising campaign to build a new science building; much of that money is targeted to come from the state and federal governments. The university has released a facilities master plan that prepares for more expansion of the school, including new dorms, more classrooms and ball fields. Plus the university has made it known that it, too, wants to build a new library.

A little more than a year ago, the city established an advisory committee to discuss the possibility of building a joint city/university library. That committee was doomed before discussions could begin because there were members who had biases against one another.

Instead of bringing together past antagonists, city and university representatives should start meeting to discuss how a joint library can be built. In a community where resources are limited, due to a stagnant economy and a no-growth population, two separate libraries will never flourish. State funds are drying up for higher education capital expenditures, while city dollars are flat or declining at best.

Old grudges and past mistakes have created a culture in La Grande that breeds long memories and much bitterness. Those who continue to harbor unproductive attitudes are part of the past and need to step aside so that positive, new relationships can be developed.

The city and university have an opportunity to lead this community into a grand future. Opportunities like a cooperative city and university library will not be there for long.

We urge rational thinkers and cooler heads to lead the way to spearhead the project.