Library looking at funding structure options, possibility of levy

The Great Falls Public Library roof repair project is underway and library officials are looking at different funding structures.

The library roof repair contract was awarded for $253,757 to CentiMark Corporation of Billings, the low bid, during the July 6 City Commission meeting.

The project includes the removal of the existing white single-ply, wind-vented roof membrane system, rigid insulation and accessories down to the existing plywood roof sheathing. New rigid insulation, fully adhered, black, EPDM roof membrane and metal parapet cap will be installed.

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The roof isn’t currently leaking but was installed in 1996 and is out of warranty repair. It’s in good enough shape to get an overlay versus a full tearoff and replacement, according to city staff.

The engineering portion of the project was funding through donations in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and the repair work is being funded through the Library Fund.

Susie McIntyre, library director, told the board during their July 27 meeting that the recently completed basement repair project was leaking again because a pump failed. She said a new pump had been ordered and the contractor was paying for the repair.

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The library is also planning to resume their full operational schedule and hours at the end of August.

McIntyre told the board during their meeting that she’s working with the county on updating their interlocal agreement that provides county funding toward the operation of the Great Falls Public Library.

She said commissioners agreed on the substance of the agreement but were still working on the number for financial support of the library.

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For each year since fiscal year 2011, with the exception of fiscal year 2016, the county has contributed $177,000 to the operation of the Great Falls Public Library.

“That just is not adequate,” McIntyre said.

The county also provides funding for the Cascade and Belt libraries that has ranged from $67,530 in 2012 to $102,000 in the last budget.

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The city has an agreement with the Great Falls Public Library to provide nine mills annually, which has ranged from $606,942 to $976,468 over the last decade. The city has also provided additional annual support ranging from $350,000 to $492,000, bringing the city’s support to around $1 million annually.

Voters approved a 2 mill levy for the GFPL in 2000 and in the management agreement, the city gives an additional seven mills, plus additional funding support on top of that.

The population outside of the city limits that the library provides services for is about 19,525 people, according to GFPL data.

McIntyre said that she’s working to organize a September meeting with city, county and the other libraries to discuss options for the library funding structure, which include asking voters to approve a larger mill levy for library operations.

She said that they could create a library district and make the GFPL a stand alone entity. Though it is already managed independently by its own library board, under the management agreement, library staff are city employees.

City Manager Greg Doyon said that he’s had conversations with McIntyre that it’s unlikely the library will get more general fund support from the city and that he’s encouraged the library to explore other revenue sources that might be more stable.

“We give them more than we’re obligated to, but that isn’t enough and we’re already stretched thin,” he said.