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Canyon Country library to reopen in March

City Council votes 5-0 to cover cost to complete renovation

Posted: November 24, 2010 12:00 p.m.
Updated: November 24, 2010 12:00 p.m.

The Canyon Country library will re-open in March after the Santa Clarita City Council voted this week to approve a deal hatched between city and county officials: the city will spend $622,000 of its own money to complete the county's renovation project there.

Los Angeles County Public Library system officials halted the renovation after the city moved to take over local libraries in August.

The Santa Clarita City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to contribute more than $622,000 from the general fund's capital reserves budget to the county project. This is the first chunk of money in a long list of costs amounting to an estimated $8 million expected with the takeover of the Canyon Country, Valencia and Newhall libraries.

City officials, at first insistent that the county use developers fees dedicated to library services in the Canyon Country area, reached what they called a compromise with county officials to put $622,000 toward the project.

City critics balked, saying this is just the type of unintended consequence they feared when the City Council voted to withdraw from the county's system.

"Is it still a good idea, or is it time to cut our losses?" Canyon Country resident Alan Ferdman asked.

Assistant City Manager Ken Striplin said $622,000 pales in comparison to the $25 million the city infused in library facilities in the past five years, building the Canyon Country Library for $5 million and the $25 million new Newhall Library under construction now.

"The city has spent on libraries before the takeover even began," Striplin said.

City Councilman Frank Ferry went further.

"This citizenry voted and taxed themselves," Ferry said, referring to a 1997 special library tax measure. Homeowners have since paid a $28 per year parcel tax that the county library system must spend in Santa Clarita. "Then we go to the county and ask for help, and we were told no. (The new libraries were paid for) with general fund money, not library money. And you question why we're doing the takeover? This issue is dead."

City Councilwoman Laurie Ender said most library users have no idea who is running the library -- they just go there and check out books. These users include a 12-year-old friend who, "just wants the stinking library open," Ender said.

County library officials, opposed to the city's move to take the reins of these libraries and the tax revenues they produce, halted Canyon Country Library's expansion six days after the Santa Clarita City Council's Aug. 24 takeover vote.

The $1.8 million project, which began in May and was slated to be finished in September, will expand the library by 4,500 square feet and add 10 parking spaces to its lot.

The expansion was about 80 percent complete when the county stopped construction there. County officials said they couldn't continue pouring county money into what will, come July 1, be a city facility.


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