By Marianne Curtis
The province recently committed money towards a proposed expansion of the Jake Epp Library in Steinbach. Premier Greg Selinger delivered the news to personally that the province will be investing $600,000 in provincial funding towards the library.
“Libraries offer opportunities for people to learn, develop and grow,” said Selinger. “We are pleased to help Steinbach promote sustainable communities by supporting projects such as this.”
Mayor Chris Goertzen was pleased with the announcement which essentially supports a project that has caused some controversy in the community.
“This will ease the burden on tax payers,” stated Goertzen. He added that his council will continue to lobby the federal and provincial governments for more money.
The proposed library project has been estimated to cost about $2.8 million. This cost estimate has raised opposition from residents in the community.
The Citizens for Steinbach group formed when the project was first initiated. The group of residents raised concerns with the Steinbach city council that proceeding with the project would impose a significant tax increase and a debenture would place an unneeded debt on the record books.
Spokesperson Susan Penner says that commitment from the province will not be enough to alleviate the tax burden on residents.
“Although it may appear that this makes the library expansion more affordable, the reality is the grant covers only about 20%, or one-fifth, of the total $2.8 million expansion project,” stated Penner. “This is still a far cry from the two-thirds grant support the mayor and council had stated was needed for this project to go ahead.”
She added that the grant would probably be used to cover the expected cost overruns of the project.
“The city will likely go ahead with the $2.8 million borrowing by law anyway, which means the tax impact on residents remains exactly the same,” she added. “In short, the grant does not address concerns about tax increases and long-term debt.”
The City of Steinbach is currently proposing a $2.8 million borrowing bylaw. Due to the number of objections a municipal board hearing is taking place August 16 at the Heritage Center in Steinbach.
The Steinbach library expansion plan includes doubling the square footage to just over 18,000 square feet. Plans include the construction of a large multi-purpose room that can be used by the public or as extension of the children’s area, as well as new reading and display areas, new technical support services, additional washrooms and enlarged stack areas.