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Upgrades planned for library, Masonic Building

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

Space that has been largely dormant for a decade may soon be at the hub of library activity.

During their regular meeting Tuesday evening, the Lockhart City Council decided to move forward with extensive plans to remodel the second and third floors of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library Annex (Masonic Building). Architect Norm

an Austin, who was involved with the renovation of the first floor of the Masonic Building, presented plans to the council which will allow the second and third floors to be used for stacks, reading rooms and meeting space, as well as expanding useable office space on the Masonic Building’s first floor.

“Some of these ideas were generated during Phase I of this project, but left out at that time because of issues of funding,” he said. “Some of the major problems [library staff] reported were storage space and office space, and these plans address those issues, as well as several other things.”

The most notable change suggested by Austin is the transformation of the third floor into meeting and conference space, complete with a “catering kitchen,” a partition to divide the space into two rooms, and a small meeting room.

“If we pursue this as the official place to hold council meetings, we will have that smaller room, which will be a perfect place to hold executive sessions,” City Manager Vance Rodgers said. “Now, if we have to go into an executive session, we have to ask our guests to leave, and I know that we all feel bad about that.”

The extensive remodeling project will also serve to fulfill other goals the city council has set.

“We have talked about building a civic center to attract larger conferences and meetings,” Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram said. “And we have talked about the need for additional office space at City Hall. If we take this route, that third floor will be great to attract those meetings, and will also allow us to use the basement of City Hall to expand our meeting space.”

Although most of the council agreed that the meeting space would not be able to compete with the new conference space opened in San Marcos, it would highlight Lockhart’s historic assets, including the Courthouse Square and the state’s oldest continuously operational library.

Additional improvements included in the plan involve closing off the children’s section of the library to make it easier to monitor, moving the technology center from its current location on Bois D’Arc St., and creating a street-level storefront for the use of the Friends of the Library.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be $1.7 million, which Bertram expects will be acquired through a certificate of obligation (bond).

Under state law, a portion of that bond may be repaid using proceeds from the city’s hotel/motel tax. Rodgers said he would return to the council later this month with a timeline and funding options for the project.

In a related item, the council considered distribution of this year’s hotel-motel tax proceeds.

For several years, hotel-motel tax proceeds have been split between several organizations that drive tourism for the city, including the chambers of commerce, the Gaslight-Baker Theatre and the Caldwell County Jail Museum. However, after the discussion about the library project, those organizations expressed concern that their funding might be reduced.

“I think the library is a great project, but I really feel like it’s going to affect us and the way we’re going to be able to proceed in the future,” said Stephanie Schunick from the Caldwell County Jail Museum. “Now, I’m trying to figure out how to go back to the group and tell them that we aren’t going to be able to do what I though we would, because of all the interest we got from the council last year, and the funding I thought we would receive.”

Wayne Bock from the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce and David Schneider from the Gaslight-Baker Theatre echoed Schunick’s concerns, stating while they were in support of the library project, they had written their annual budgets with the assumption they would receive similar hotel-motel funding this year.

Though he was not present for the meeting, District 1 Councilmember Kenny Roland sent word through Bertram that he would be in favor of utilizing the hotel-motel funds for the library project, but not to the extent that the funding was completely withheld from the tourism organizations.

After a lengthy discussion about allocation of the funds, the council voted to maintain funding levels similar to those upheld in the past, with each organization taking a small cut to offer a portion of the funding to the Southwest Museum of Clocks and Watches. However, the organizations were strongly cautioned that the funding could be reduced in the future, and encouraged to work to find other means of funding their budgets in the future.

In addition, District 3 Councilmember Lew White expressed concern that some of the organizations, in particular the Greater Caldwell County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Southwest Museum of Clocks and Watches, are only available to the public at limited times, making them somewhat ineffective as visitors’ centers. White suggested those organizations reevaluate their functions if they hope to continue to receive hotel-motel funding.

In brief news:
The council approved tax resale bids on three properties sold in December’s tax sale. As a function of the sale, the city was forced to forgive several liens for mowing and maintenance of the properties, a fact which raised concerns from the dais. However, Rodgers said state law requires the city to maintain the properties, but no agreement exists between the city, school and county taxing entities to pay for that maintenance.

They approved a proposal from Library Director Bertha Martinez to purchase several computers and software programs with funds received from the Lone Star Libraries Grant.

Finance Director Jeff Hinson reported to the council on the city’s first quarter investment report.

The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Room at Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public, and citizens are encouraged to attend and participate.

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