Palmer council rejects bid to downsize plans for new library

PALMER — Plans for a large new public library in Palmer are moving forward after the city council this week rejected a measure that would have asked architects to shrink its size in an attempt to save money.

The new 20,000-square-foot, two-story building will replace the prior 12,000-square-foot structure, which closed permanently after its roof partially collapsed under heavy snow load early last year. The city is using a small interim location until the new facility can be built.

The cost of the new design is currently estimated at $18 million. As planned, the building includes large reading areas, an outdoor balcony, and a variety of meeting rooms. Construction is expected to be paid for through a combination of taxpayer funding approved by voters last year, grants, state and federal funding, and an insurance payout on the old building, officials said.

[Palmer council asks Alaska attorney general whether list of challenged books violates state obscenity laws]

The Palmer City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to reject the downsizing proposal. Voting in support of the smaller project were council members Richard Best, Pamela Melin and Joshua Tudor.

The rejected proposal asked Palmer-based Wolf Architecture to cut costs to no more than $10 million, a move that would have required shrinking building plans to about 14,000 square feet, according to architectural documents.

Council members who voted for a smaller facility said they are worried about saddling the city and residents with the cost of the new building.


The project has also become embroiled in an ongoing areawide debate about whether certain books should be available to children.

Some Palmer community members at Tuesday’s meeting criticized plans for the new library building to include storage and office space for officials with the Friends of the Palmer Public Library, a nonprofit library support organization they say promotes books they consider obscene.

Plans for the building will get at least one more look by the city council before the project goes to bid, city officials said. Construction of the new building is likely to start next year.

Palmer’s city council last week sent a letter to Alaska’s attorney general asking him to determine whether 56 books including titles widely considered classics, such as “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, violate state obscenity laws. They also asked whether city librarians could be arrested for letting minors check out those books after a local resident last year filed a complaint with police.

The same list of books is under consideration by a Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District citizens’ advisory board empaneled last year to review challenged books.

Amy Bushatz

Amy Bushatz is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su covering Valley news for the ADN.