Library district would save Wagner

FALLS CITY — Would Falls City residents support paying to keep the Wagner Community Library open?

That is what Falls City school and city officials want to find out before plunging into planning to put a taxing district or operating levy on the ballot.

The library’s funding is limited to what remains in the Wagner Trust Fund managed by the city, which will run out within a few years. Neither the city nor the school district can afford to pay operational costs, so it would be up to the citizens to provide funding necessary to keep the doors open.

Both entities believe that may be a challenge, citing losses at the ballot for a bond to build a multi-purpose gym at Falls City Elementary School and weak support in the precinct for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office levy.

“The city precinct has always been very tight on voting,” Mayor Terry Ungricht said. “It would take a lot of educating and trying to get the no-sayers to come to a meeting to offer their ideas.”

The group decided its first step should be surveying the community, with suggestions of putting the survey in utility bills, online and passing it out at sporting events.

Library Director Andy Rommel said material stating what the library provides to the community should be distributed at the same time the survey goes out.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t want to put a whole lot of work into it if people are going to vote no on it,” said Bob Young, who is on the school board.

He said, as a school board member, he’s willing to support the library to keep it open, but there only so much that can be done once the trust money runs out.

“These people need to say yes or no to something, and if they say no, fine, it’s no,” he said.

The library’s advisory board would oversee writing the survey, which the city and district could help distribute to community members.

Depending on the outcome of the survey, the two entities may schedule a meeting with state library and Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library System representatives to discuss forming a district versus asking voters for a three- to five-year levy.

Ungricht said he would like to see community members, both those who use the library and those who don’t, attend that meeting to hear about options — or provide their own.

“That’s what we are running into — we are not getting public involvement,” he said. “We’re only trying to come up with solutions to help the community, and we don’t have all the ideas.”

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