Jean Rucker, a 13-year volunteer with Friends of Sequim Library, prepares materials to sell during the Friends’ book sale earlier this year. NOLS staff are preparing a grant application for state funding to enlarge the Sequim Library facility on North Sequim Avenue. Sequim Gazette file photo by Matthew Nash

Jean Rucker, a 13-year volunteer with Friends of Sequim Library, prepares materials to sell during the Friends’ book sale earlier this year. NOLS staff are preparing a grant application for state funding to enlarge the Sequim Library facility on North Sequim Avenue. Sequim Gazette file photo by Matthew Nash

NOLS may seek state grant for Sequim branch expansion

The North Olympic Library System’s effort in 2018 to convince voters of the need to expand its Sequim branch came up just short. Now, library leaders are looking to convince state officials of that need for a grant worth up to $2 million.

The system’s board of trustees on May 28 agreed to have staff prepare a grant proposal that would allow for some improvements to the Sequim Library such as more meeting space, ADA-accessible bathrooms and staff area.

Created by state legislators in their 2019 regular session, the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Library Capital Improvement Program (LCIP) looks to “assist libraries operated by governmental units, to acquire, construct or rehabilitate their facilities,” according to the Commerce website.

The state is looking to award up to $10 million overall, with the maximum grant to one facility or entity set at $2 million. The program requires a 50 percent match of the total cost of the project, so the largest project the North Olympic Library System (NOLS) could plan for is a $4 million expansion.

And that total could certainly be less, NOLS executive director Noah Glaude said this week.

“One of the things we told the board (at the May 28) meeting is not to get too attached to these preliminary plans,” Glaude said.

Grant priority, library officials note, is given to library facilities located in distressed or rural counties or listed on historic registers. Because Clallam County is both a rural and distressed county as defined by the Office of Financial Management, the proposed Sequim branch project would receive “priority consideration,” NOLS officials said last week.

The grant application is due June 15, with recipients named in the fall and funding (through the sale of state bonds) awarded starting in 2021 through the 2021-2023 state Capital Budget.

NOLS officials called the Library Capital Improvement Program grant “an unexpected, one-time grant opportunity to access additional funding for much-needed improvements to the Sequim branch” and that “it is unknown if or when the grant would be offered again.”

The board of trustees will need to consider what level of financial contribution to commit to the proposed project, prior to staff submitting the grant application for an expected special board meeting on June 12.

While it would be significantly less than the $13.4 million plan voters turned down in 2018, the grant would allow for a number of significant improvements at the site, NOLS staff said.

“It’s certainly not what we hope for,” Glaude said, but the grant opportunity is a positive option, “considering we’ve been facing the pandemic the past couple of months.

“This seemed like a good alternative.”

Peninsula libraries have been closed since mid-March and won’t reopen until Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start Washington” plan — at least until mid- to late June.

Eyeing improvements

Library staffers are working with SHKS Architects, the same firm used for the 2018 building design, as consultants to determine cost estimates for the grant proposal.

An ad hoc group of managers convened to consider the grant in recent weeks, and they identified several projects that the grant should pay for, including:

• Additional square footage to allow for adequate spacing of public seating, shelving and staff work areas

• ADA-accessible bathrooms for the public and staff

• Expanded meeting room space

• Improved safety/emergency exits in meeting room

• Additional staff work area (individual offices, storage, improved shared work room space)

“While this level of funding could not solve all of the facility challenges, it would provide an opportunity to address critical problem areas,” NOLS officials noted in the May 28 meeting agenda.

Space was already an issue before the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus, NOLS officials noted, so more square footage at the Sequim building is a priority.

“We’re more and more aware of how tight the space is in that building,” Glaude said.

“Sequim is going have an extremely hard time spacing appropriately (with state-mandated distancing guidelines) … compared to our other facilities,” he said.

Sequim branch background

Since well before 2014, when they began making the Sequim Library a top priority for future projects, NOLS officials have considered options for addressing the space constraints at the facility on North Sequim Avenue — a 6,050-square-foot building that opened in 1983.

Putting funds into and setting public meetings for a ballot measure in November 2018, the board of trustees put two propositions before voters: Proposition 1, that would create a Library Capital Facilities Area, and Proposition 2, asking for $12.4 million in bonds to build a 17,000-square-foot library.

Proposition 1 passed with 65.4 percent despite only needing a simple majority, while Proposition 2 failed with 58.6 percent in favor and not meeting the required 60 percent supermajority.

Library leaders said it needed 257 more “yes” votes to pass.

In February 2019, the board of trustees unanimously voted to put expansion discussions back on the shelf until at least 2021.

“The chances of that (kind of bond proposal) are shrinking,” Glaude said.

For more information about the library system, see www.nols.org.

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