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Library dream comes true

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fallbrook Library was held on the Alvarado Street and Mission Road site September 30.

“The buzzword today is ‘excitement.’ Everyone is excited,” said Jose Aponte, the county’s library director. “This will indeed be an incredible dream come true.”

The new library, which is expected to open late next year, will have 19,076 square feet of space which will include approximately 1,500 square feet of community space, 1,100 square feet of teen space, a homework center and a special environment room in the children’s area which will include sculptures of hanging fruit and furniture designed to resemble oranges and avocados.

The library will also include an exterior Poet’s Patio, which will measure approximately 2,000 square feet, and a “green roof” that will host low-water-usage plants will be visible from Mission Road. Disney will design a giant ant that will sit on the arch leading families to the children’s area.

A community room is expected to feature weekly reading and musical productions; that room can be partitioned into three separate rooms.

Four small meeting rooms will also be part of the library facilities.

“This is going to be not only a beautiful structure to look at, but it’s also going to be useful,” said architect Philip Pape.

“This is going to be the most important building in Fallbrook,” said Jerri Patchett, chair of the Library Building Task Force. “This is going to be our cultural center.”

The library will also include artwork of various forms provided by local artists.

“It will be built around families, teens, kids and communities,” Aponte said. “The library will be more than books – a vibrant community center.”

The community element has been reflected by support from Friends of the Fallbrook Library. “There are so many, many people who helped us to get to where we are today,” said Friends President Marlo Miller.

Friends of the Fallbrook Library has already raised $2.3 million. “That is incredible – and it is also not quite enough,” Patchett said.

Patchett explained that an additional $500,000 is needed for book collections, a baby grand piano for the community room, theater lighting and a sound system and outdoor items.

Because many of those items must be incorporated into construction, the money is needed as the library is being built.

The Friends group has more than 400 members even though Fallbrook has a population of approximately 45,000. “That’s unheard of,” Patchett said.

More than half of Fallbrook residents have library cards. “The community is engaged with their library,” Patchett said. “They were willing to put up the money to make this happen.”

Friends of the Fallbrook Library has also had more than 2,500 donors who have sought to support the new library. Many of those made small contributions, while some gave larger amounts.

The groundbreaking ceremony included the presentation of a $100,000 three-year pledge by the Fallbrook Rotary Club.

County Supervisor Bill Horn has also provided Community Projects funding for needs of the new library, noting that he promised to provide support if Friends could raise money on their own.

“They took my challenge,” Horn said.

Money from the county’s general fund will pay for the construction of the new building. “I told them they were going to have to raise money to do the inside,” Horn said. “They kept working on it.”

Aponte noted that support from the Friends included more than just financial donations. “The Friends have been at every one of our planning meetings,” he said.

The design-build process included county staff and community members developing performance guidelines for teams of architects and contractors.

“The design-build process is critical, I think, to the success of this project,” Patchett said.

Plans to replace the 8,100-square-foot library, which was rebuilt in 1986 after a 1985 fire destroyed the previous Fallbrook library, preceded the passage of Proposition 14 by the state’s voters in the March 2000 election.

Proposition 14 provided $350 million in matching funds to build and renovate public libraries throughout California.

In July 2001 the San Diego County Board of Supervisors authorized county staff to develop Proposition 14 applications for replacement libraries in Campo-Morena Village, Fallbrook and Julian and to work with La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Santee and Encinitas to develop operating agreements to support those cities’ applications.

“We’re here today because we made a commitment to Fallbrook some years ago,” Horn said.

The application deadline for the first $150 million of Proposition 14 funds to be awarded was in June 2002.

The application for the new Fallbrook Library was initially submitted for the second cycle in 2003, in which $110 million was awarded, but the submittal was unsuccessful.

The county tried again for the final funding cycle in 2004 but was again turned down. “The supporters in Fallbrook did not lose heart every time we got told no,” Horn said.

The county also sought Proposition 14 funding for the new Ramona library in 2003 and 2004 and was also denied in those applications.

The county had hoped that a new bond measure would provide additional funding for local libraries, and the state legislatures approved a bond measure for the June 2006 ballot, but that proposition was rejected by the state’s voters.

Although the county had hoped for state funding to construct the new library, various measures were taken during the Proposition 14 application process.

The county selected a site for the new Fallbrook branch immediately to the north of the existing library building, and in June 2002 the supervisors approved options to purchase the existing home on that site along with two-thirds of the property needed to meet parking requirements.

In July 2002 the supervisors approved the purchase of the remaining one-third of the parking requirement.

“We worked very hard to keep the library in this location,” said Fallbrook Village Association President Vince Ross. “We felt it was very important for the heart of our town.”

In November 2002 the county’s Department of Environmental Health found that the property was suitable for acquisition by the county. In December 2002 an environmental Mitigated Negative Declaration for the library was filed.

In February 2003 the county’s Planning and Environmental Review Board granted a Major Use Permit for the proposed Fallbrook Library and made findings that the project would be consistent with the county’s General Plan and with the Fallbrook Community Plan, it would be consistent with existing zoning which allows library services with the granting of a Major Use Permit, it would comply with all of the findings of a Major Use Permit and it would not have a significant effect on the environment.

In March 2004 Friends of the Fallbrook Library acquired the property adjacent to the existing library with the intention of deeding the parcel to the county when the new library was ready for construction.

Because private organizations are not subject to various county policies and regulations, the purchase of the property by the Friends rather than by the county simplified the process and eliminated certain county costs.

The house on the adjacent property was demolished in July 2007.

In May 2007 the Board of Supervisors approved the Capital Improvement Needs Assessment Program which covered facilities projects slated for capital improvement between 2007 and 2012, although the assessment did not include funding for those projects.

A total of 11 major unfunded and partially funded projects exceeding $9 million apiece were prioritized. The Fallbrook and Ramona libraries tied for eighth among the 11 projects.

In September 2007 the supervisors authorized the preparation of design-build documents and the necessary planning activities for the Fallbrook and Ramona libraries.

The county Department of General Services and its technical consultant worked with county Purchasing and Contracting, County Library, Department of Planning and Land Use, Department of Public Works and County Counsel staff, as well as Friends of the Fallbrook Library, to develop the functional and performance requirements for a design-build request for proposals.

Representatives from the building and financial security industries were also involved in the development of the pre-qualification process.

On March 25, 2008, the county supervisors voted 4-0, with Ron Roberts absent, to appropriate $7,040,000 of 2006-2007 general fund balance into the capital outlay fund for the Fallbrook branch library and to authorize the director of the Department of Purchasing and Contracting to take action with respect for the construction of the branch library.

That action also approved an Irrevocable Offer of Dedication which accepted the parcel acquired by the Friends and adopted an addendum to the Mitigated Negative Declaration.

“It’s much easier to sell a project like this when you have the community’s support,” Horn said.

The March 25, 2008, meeting saw the supervisors approve two other library items: the appropriation of $11,220,000 of 2006-2007 general fund balance to cover the construction of the Ramona library and the purchase of an 0.78-acre parcel for the new Alpine library.

The County Library system operates libraries in the unincorporated area of San Diego County and also contracts with several incorporated cities to operate libraries.

Horn, who has been in office since January 1995, has also been involved in the new Vista, San Marcos, Borrego, Valley Center and 4S Ranch libraries.

“Before there was public education in this country, there were libraries,” said Horn, who noted that in his childhood he was tutored by a City of San Diego librarian.

On May 5, 2009, the Board of Supervisors authorized the acceptance of up to $3 million of donations from Friends of the Fallbrook Library for furnishings, fixtures, equipment and other enhancements for the library.

The authorization to accept the future donations allowed those items to be incorporated into the library’s construction, and on September 22 the supervisors approved a change order for the construction contract to cover those items.

Ross noted that the new library is expected to benefit the vitality of the town center area and will become a new community center.

“This is truly a crossroads for us,” he said. “Our community needs to be eternally grateful to the leadership that made this happen.”

“I’m glad we’re starting,” Horn said. “I look forward to the day when we have this facility finished and we open the door.”

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