City of Palmer voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve a $10 million general obligation bond to partially fund a replacement for the Palmer Public Library. The roof of the library collapsed on Feb. 15 due to heavy snow loads, and the city has managed an interim library at an alternate site since May.
Over 22,000 books were damaged beyond repair during the roof collapse, mostly children’s books. Palmer Library Director Beth Skow said she also lost years worth of hard work and memories in the previous building.
“Then the roof comes down, and we see everything that we put into that library disappear. So that has been disheartening and really crushing,” Skow said. “Everybody wanted a bigger library to begin with, and we thought that would never happen. They see a better future for the library.”
In May, Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer, helped secure $5 million in funding for the library during the Alaska Legislature’s special session to pass a budget. If voters pass Proposition 1 on Oct. 3, the $10 million could be taken from sales taxes.
The Palmer Public Library was built in 1982 and held much more than just books. The library regularly hosted community events, Christmas concerts and story time for children. While the interim library has provided access to some materials and work space, story time has been held at the Palmer train depot and other events have had to relocate. The Friends of the Palmer Public Library is a group that advocates for the library. Rachel House is the group’s president and said that discussions had been ongoing about the need to modernize the library since before the roof collapsed last winter.
“Through all this destruction and damage, maybe what’s going to come out of it is something even better,” House said. “Not only will we be able to have hopefully a library that really fits the needs of our community as far as the meeting space and enough space for events and books, but that also we reignited a love for the library in our community.”
Palmer City Manager John Moosey expects that additional federal or state funding will be available to pay for the planning, design, and construction of the library if the bond passes.
“If passed, the city council has a right to go and acquire funding — bond funding — for up to $10 million. That does not require them to do so and does not mean they will do so,” Moosey said. “Just two years ago went to the citizens for an $8 million bond for a wastewater treatment plant. We found other funding, and that bond was never taken out.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Palmer Public Library was built in 1982. It was built in 1985.