Committee Discusses Funding and Uses for Hunt Branch Library

The second of four planned meetings of the Hunt Library Ad Hoc Committee took place in the Community Room of Fullerton’s Main Branch Library on Monday, August 6. The Ad Hoc’s agenda reflected a committee still searching for basic information about the Hunt Branch Library.

 The future of the Hunt Branch Library in Fullerton is uncertain.
The ambitious agenda laid out for the evening gave rise to the hope that essential questions about the actual cost to operate the facility as a proper library, requirements for bringing the building up to current accessibility standards and needed repairs, and even an accurate map of the property might finally be forthcoming.
Picking up where they left off weeks earlier, the Ad Hoc moved to unanimously elected Mr. Beard as Chair with Ms. Schmalfield as Vice Chair.
With one clear decision under their belts, the nine Ad Hoc members surged on to the next item, existentially entitled Prioritizing Council Direction Regarding the Purpose of the Library Ad Hoc Committee, which was precipitated by a July 30 memo by member Barbara Kilponen, who suggested prioritizing, in order, funding, the Hunt library building’s use, and landscaping.
Library Director Judy Booth, an ex-officio member of the Ad Hoc also tasked with staffing it, attempted to locate a map of the Hunt and its surrounding grounds on the city’s own website. Attendee James Cho, an affiliate of Hunt leasee Grace Ministries International (GMI) called out navigational instructions from the audience. Once found, the map led to more questions from the committee, including whether or not the adjacent dog park should be considered part of the Hunt Branch property. Eventually, Molly McClanahan requested a more accurate map.
Several members suggested that a Request for Proposals/Request for Qualifications (RFP/RFQ) be issued to solicit possible uses and occupants of the facility, referred to by Jan Flory as a “dying library.” Former council members on the committee explained that the Ad Hoc itself was not allowed to issue RFPs or RFQs, but there was general agreement that the committee could recommend the City Council to do so.
For many years people have asked how much money it would cost to repair and reopen the Hunt Branch Library building. A definitive answer was not to be had at this meeting, but Director Judy Booth did provide a Preliminary Inspection Estimate totaling around $2.5 million.
$1 million of the figure, characterized as a “guess” by Director Booth, was dedicated to the cost of replacing unbroken windows that had been painted black because they had been repeatedly etched by vandals. Replacement of interior lights was the second highest expense at $720,000, followed by $120,000 to replace the roof and another $160,000 for new heating and air conditioning systems. Other expenses included fence repair, exterior light replacement, and a fire sprinkler system. Other costs, like seismic retrofit, landscaping and internet connectivity were classified as “Unknown,” while gas, sewer, and water systems were not inspected.
A staff report estimated the cost of operating the Hunt Branch as a library once again as $832,956 for seven days a week or $679,630 for five days per week.
Director Booth explained that an additional $ 200,000 would need to be spent on new collections, since the books currently housed at the Hunt were assumed to be in such poor condition, presumably due to being shrink-wrapped for years while the building has been leased out to Grace Ministries. Technological upgrades were not included in this estimate either. Former Fullerton City Council member Jan Flory doubted that the current City Council would allocate $ 2.5 million to refurbish and repair the Hunt, but didn’t think the public would support selling the building and grounds either, and so supported finding an alternative use for the Hunt.
The committee moved on the next item, to consider Publicly Beneficial Uses of the Building and Grounds, including, but not limited to, a CSUF reading program satellite facility, a “maker-space” for robotics, a “creative space” for seniors, and different permutations of art and science spaces for kids. All the Arts for All the Kids was said to be interested in submitting a proposal. Committee member Michael Williams wondered whether or not the Hunt Branch was the best site for many of the suggested uses.
Committee member Egleth Nuncii reported that Robert Pletka of the Fullerton School District had been asked about being a partner for programming at the Hunt, but no realistic suggestions for programming partners who might bring the necessary funding to repair the facility were forthcoming. Overall, fewer funding ideas were presented than uses for the site. They included Barbara Kilponen’s suggestion to invite architectural firms to lease the site for 99 years, and sell off portions of the property to fund the remainder, or to transfer the open spaces surrounding the building to the Parks and Recreation Department to take advantage of Park Dwelling Fees.
The Library Ad Hoc Committee voted to invite members of the public to submit ideas about possible funded uses for the Hunt Library at the Ad Hoc’s next meeting, to be held on Tuesday, September 4, 5:30 p.m. at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave.
To stay updated on news related to the hunt visit www.savethehunt.com.

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