Monday, March 28, 2005 | 11:13 a.m.
As lawmakers in Carson City criticize North Las Vegas for neglecting more established neighborhoods, the city's library district is moving ahead with construction -- in one of its newer developments -- of the community's first full-service library to be built in 40 years.
Construction is slated to begin in April for the $5.25 million library in the Aliante master-planned community on Deer Springs Road, east of Aliante Parkway. The Aliante Library on the north side of the city will measure nearly 16,000 square feet when it opens in March 2006. Library and city officials celebrated the project last week by holding groundbreaking ceremonies.
But its opening will shutter a 4-year-old satellite library in a shopping center at 4528 W. Craig Road that already serves homes in more established neighborhoods on the west side of North Las Vegas, six miles from the Aliante Library site. That's got some library patrons upset that their area isn't getting the first priority for a new facility that they've been expecting for several years.
North Las Vegas officials have come under scrutiny by lawmakers in Carson City as favoring newer developments for amenities at the expense of older parts of the community. Assembly members are pushing for a bill that would require council members be elected only by voters within the ward in which they now reside rather than the city as a whole, as currently is done.
North Las Vegas officials, however, are fighting the proposed legislation, saying it should be up to the voters in the city to decide such a system. The city has a balanced approach to spending money in the community, and many improvements in new developments are covered by developers and aren't borne by taxpayers in other parts of the city, officials said.
Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, the prime sponsor of Assembly Bill 197, said the constituents he serves are more likely to use the Aliante Library, but it would have been a better choice by the district for a library more centrally located.
"You are seeing the newer areas get a little more of the parks and other things and that's one of the reasons we are pushing for AB 197," Atkinson said. "We thought it would make council members more responsive to their wards and maybe they would fight a little more to get libraries and other things."
The board chose the Aliante site over a full-service library on property donated to the city at Alexander Road, west of Martin Luther King Boulevard. The land is near the 4,000-square-foot satellite library that opened in August 2001.
Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, was more critical of the district's decision to choose the Aliante site over one on Alexander Road, saying it's part of the trend of favoring new development. She said library services are lacking in that section of town, and she's unable to use the Craig Road facility that is closed Sunday through Tuesday.
"I think that's terrible," said Kirkpatrick, a former city planning commission member. "I think residents that have stuck by the city the last 20 years should have them first."
North Las Vegas Councilwoman Stephanie Smith, who chairs the library district board which is comprised of council members and two citizens, said the decision on where to build a new library wasn't based on favoring newer development. Smith, whose ward includes the Craig Road library and Aliante Library, said the Aliante site was selected because of financial opportunities for the cash-strapped library district that relies on property- tax revenue.
The district planned to share the cost of the Aliante Library with a Boys & Girls Club, but that partnership fell through, she said. The library district was also counting on a donation from the developers of Aliante, which plans to give an unspecified amount of money for books, Smith said.
Aliante is a project of North Valley Enterprises, which is a partnership between developers American Nevada Company and Del Webb Corp. American Nevada is owned by the Greenspun family, which also owns the Las Vegas Sun. The development will have 7,500 homes and 20,000 people on 1,900 acres of former Bureau of Land Management property.
The developers donated three acres for the library as part of a development agreement -- property Smith estimates is worth more than $1.5 million. North Las Vegas doesn't charge developers a fee to pay for new libraries that serve their subdivisions.
Smith said the district doesn't have the resources to staff the satellite library a year from now but is committed to building the Alexander Road facility in the next four years when it has saved up money. She said it was prudent to wait because that facility, with income levels of nearby residents, has a better chance of securing federal funding.
"We were trying to get more bang for our buck," Smith said. "We have the opportunity to build two libraries rather than one."
That explanation, however, doesn't satisfy some library patrons who said city officials have promised them for several years that a library would be built on Alexander Road.
North Las Vegas resident David Gilliam, 39, who takes his son and daughter to the Craig Road library on a regular basis, said the district should at least find a way to keep the satellite facility open to serve school children in the area. He said newer residents to the city should have to wait instead of forcing library patrons like himself to drive further.
"I don't think what they are doing is right," Gilliam said. "We have been waiting for this. They shouldn't be favoring them over our area."
Library patrons suggested the district seek corporate donations or hold fund raisers to keep the Craig Road facility open a year from now. It has a staff of three people, and library officials said those positions and five others will be needed at the Aliante branch.
The Aliante Library will be funded by bonds and library district revenue, officials said. In July 2003, the city received a $75,000 federal grant for the project.
The library district chose to save money for the project after voters rejected a bond measure in 1995. The bonds will be paid during the next 10 years out of library revenue, officials said.
"The voters said they weren't willing to pay anything more, and so we are excited we can build a new library without putting any more burden on them," said Mayor Mike Montandon.
Montandon, who lives near the proposed Alexander Road library site, said the city could use libraries everywhere but the decision was made to go where were the resources were available.
North Las Vegas already lags well behind in meeting the demands of its population, according to a master plan the library district is expected to release in April. The city's only other library is an 18,000- square-foot facility at the City Hall complex.
"That 4,000-square-foot facility on Craig Road is rocking and rolling," said Library Director Anita Laruy. "It is always full. It is such a small facility to serve such a large growing area."
North Las Vegas with its population of about 150,000 should have seven libraries compared with similar-sized cities across the country, Laruy said. And the city may need as many as 19 libraries to meet the demand in the community by 2025 if the population continues to grow, according to a master plan scheduled to be released in April.
"We are extremely under serving the population through a lack of funds, and we can't remedy this situation," Laruy said. "It is frustrating not only for me, but for the board of trustees."
The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District operates 23 branches, Henderson has three main libraries and one satellite facility and Boulder City has one library, Laruy said.
The library district, which was created in 1993 and took over library operations from the city, generates about $2.3 million a year. That includes $2.2 million a year in property tax revenue based on $6.25 for every $100 in assessed valuation, according to Phil Stoeckinger, the city's finance director.
The city subsidizes the library system by providing building, human resources and insurance services to the district, officials said.
The district's revenue is limited because state law doesn't allow it to capture sales tax, cigarette, liquor and other taxes available to other library districts, officials said. Henderson receives $1.6 million a year in revenue from those taxes, Stoeckinger said.
Newly formed districts weren't allowed by the state Legislature to get the revenue, and Laruy said she's given up on lobbying for the money.
"The other governments refuse to give up their piece of the pie," Laruy said.
Kirkpatrick said that's the first time she's heard of the funding problem and will look into what can be done to get the district more revenue.
The Aliante library will house a reference, circulation, young adult and children's section with outdoor patio. There will also be meeting rooms with a kitchen and the checking out of compact discs and DVDs, which aren't available at the main branch because of a lack of space.