Bonner County voters were saying no to a new library Tuesday night.
With four out of six precincts reporting, the 10-year, $3.8 million levy was failing by several hundred votes. The levy needed 55 percent approval to pass.
“We will probably go back to the drawing board,” said library board member Ted Bowers. “We aren’t going to quit. The need is not going to go away.”
Voters here have never given the library district money for a building. The last levy request was about 10 years ago when the district wanted to remodel the current library.
“This could have been a first,” said Library Director James Murray.
Nasty weather, including snow and freezing rain, closed county schools and made for a dismal voter turnout.
“There was a concern that people weren’t getting out to vote,” Murray said. “I think the weather hurt us some.”
The library board has already bought property in Sandpoint for the planned library. It also has a blueprint for a 24,700 square-foot facility to replace the 68-year-old downtown library.
The existing two-story building has only 8,000 square feet of usable space. It’s jam-packed with books and there is no room to expand. The library’s heating and electrical systems are also outdated, and it has limited parking and poor handicap access.
“I support a new library. The one we have now is overused and too small,” said resident Brad Schwartz after he voted Tuesday.
But opponents criticized everything from the cost of the proposed building to its design.
“A new library will tie up those on fixed incomes for 10 years,” said Anne Lack after casting her ballot. “We just can’t afford it, especially with the schools and county asking for money.”