Council OKs $59 million bond issue for library

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday voted 25-2 to approve nearly $59 million in debt to pay for new and renovated library branches across the city.

The Indianapolis-Marion County Library plans a series of bonds, totaling $58.55 million, over the next six years. The first bond issue, for $4.76 million, could come this year for improvements at mulitple branches, including East Washington Street, Lawrence, Southport, Warren Township and Wayne Township.

The library's plan also calls for replacing branch buildings in Martindale-Brightwood, Glendale, Pike Township and the area near West 38th Street at Lafayette Road. The library would add a second branch in Lawrence Township at Fort Harrison and build a new branch in Perry Township, filling a gap between the southeast side and Southport.

Library officials have not acquired real estate for the planned projects. (Plans for each location can be seen below.)

Under the plan outlined by accounting firm H.J. Umbaugh and Associates, library officials think they can issue the debt without raising the tax rate, which is 13.7 cents per $100 of assessed value this year. If the library didn’t issue new debt, debt-service payments would end after 2022, and the levy likely would decline.

The library is emphasizing the need for physical space even as readers increasingly shift toward digital media, but CEO Jackie Nytes said people are using library buildings as much as ever. “We’re not seeing reductions in door counts,” she said.

Residents are flocking to libraries for high-speed Internet access, tutoring sessions and small-group meetings, Nytes said. “I think that people are looking for opportunities for informal education,” she said.

Library statistics show that use is on the rise. The library reported 4.3 million patron visits in 2013, a 1-percent increase over the prior year. Computer use hit 1.1 million session-hours, a 8.5-percent increase.

Circulation rose 3.1 percent, to 15.9 million items. Books still account for the majority of material in circulation at 64 percent. Free downloads of eBooks grew 43 percent, from 350,099 to 501,155.

Republican council members Aaron Freeman and Christine Scales voted against the resolution.

Here are details on expected branch construction projects:

— Brightwood, 15,000-square-foot building on 4 acres, to replace Brightwood branch, $5.95 million, 2016.

— Eagle Branch, 20,100-square-foot building on 5 acres, to replace Eagle branch, $7.66 million, 2016.

— Perry Township, 25,000-square-foot building on 6 acres near the center of Perry Township, new branch, $9.42 million, 2018.

— Michigan Road, 20,000-square-foot building on 4 acres near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Michigan Road, to replace Flanner House Branch, $7.65 million, 2018.

— Fort Benjamin Harrison, 25,000 square-foot building on 5 acres, new branch, $9.69 million, 2019.

— Glendale, 25,000-square-foot building on 6 acres, to replace Glendale branch, $10.22 million, 2020.

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