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Taxpayers defeat referendum for new library in Oregon

Oregon won’t be getting a new public library after all.

Voters rejected a $4.5 million referendum 999 to 737 Tuesday that would have allowed the library board to replace the 105-year-old Carnegie library on Jefferson Street with a new 23,000 square-foot two-story brick building at the corner of Washington (Ill. 64) and North Sixth Streets.

Library board president Scott Stephens said he was disappointed at the outcome of the vote.

“I think it's economic,” he said. “Basically we've got an older community that's not willing to pay more taxes whether it's good for the town or not.”

Stephens said he does not expect the library board will pursue a building referendum in the future.

“If the people of Oregon won't vote to pay for a new library when half of it is paid for by the state, they're never going to vote for it,” he said. “It's sad."

Voters also defeated a referendum asking for a 6 cent increase per $100 equalized assessed valuation for maintenance of the new facility. The vote was 1083 to 638.

The library board had successfully applied for a state grant that would have covered $3.7 million of the approximate $8.2 million cost of the new building.

Stephens said the grant can be used only for library construction and will be awarded to another library district if Oregon doesn't have a way to raise the revenue for the remainder of the cost by June 30.

The current library does not meet residents' needs, he said.

The proposed layout of the new structure offered space on the main floor for the children's collection, a gallery for the Eagle's Nest Art Collection, a public meeting room, as well as offices and an activity room.

The second floor of the new building would have housed the general book collection, a teen lounge, a reading area and study areas, and a conference room.

Computers and public restrooms would have been located on both floors.

If both referendums had passed, the taxes on a $100,000 home would have increased approximately $102 per year, or $87 for homeowners who are senior citizens.

Plans called for paying off the building bonds over a 20-year period.

Stephens said the new building would have been handicapped accessible, which the current one is not and would have allowed for ample parking, another deficiency at the current location.

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