A local philanthropist's offer to pay much of the cost to build a larger downtown Menlo Park, Calif., Library has the city scrambling to meet a potential funding deadline.
John Arrillaga, a Portola Valley billionaire who has helped pay for three other buildings in the city's Civic Center, has indicated he'll pay up to $45 million for a rebuilt library one-third larger than the current facility built in 1957 and expanded in 1967 and 1991.
But in return, he has said the city must come up with the first $20 million and "expedite their portion of the timeline to the extent possible," according to a staff report. The rebuild is estimated to cost between $45 million and $65 million.
On Tuesday, the city's Finance & Audit Committee was asked to respond to a City Council request to choose options for producing the needed $20 million. Members discussed four bond options, possibly in conjunction with using city reserves or unassigned money in the general fund, which currently contains $4.5 million. They also discussed the possibility of selling city assets such as the Menlo Park Municipal Water District, lifting the utility tax cap or earmarking a portion of tax revenue from the Menlo Gateway hotel under construction.
But the committee ultimately punted the issue to the Library Commission and City Council after Stuart Soffer, a former committee member and self-described library expert, said expanding the library goes against current trends.
The Library Commission's next meeting is Aug. 21 and the council is to discuss the plan again either Aug. 22 or Aug. 29.
"There was recognition that the Finance & Audit Committee aren't library experts and we're not in the position to judge the scope," said Vice Mayor Peter Ohtaki, who serves on the committee.
Ohtaki said there was general consensus for the option to issue a 30-year bond, in which the city would pay a relatively fixed rate of roughly $1.8 million a year through 2047, including 3.72 percent interest, for a total cost of $35.4 million. The other options would not carry a fixed interest rate.