San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

February 21st, 2008
Kyle library could stay downtown

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
 

KYLE – A combination of highway construction and downtown advocacy has opened new possibilities for a new Kyle library. The result could be a jewel for the northern edge of downtown.

Members of the city’s library building committee and a group of downtown boosters calling itself the Old Town Advocates went before the city council Tuesday night with a proposal to look into a site on Burleson Street just south of St. Anthony Church.

The building committee asked for staff support to investigate the downtown site because the committee has no authority to enter into contracts or negotiate for site acquisition.

The Old Town Advocates are a group of downtown business owners and residents who believe the original portion of Kyle has been neglected as the city expands with retail, industry and residential developments to the north and east. The advocates made it their business to scout out a downtown site to keep the library from wandering to a newer part of town.

Speaking for the Old Town Advocates in an increasingly rare public appearance was 76-year-old local icon Moe Johnson – member of Buda High School’s illustrious Class of 1947 (along with Free Press Publisher Bob Barton and the decorous Henry Armbruster), builder of a basketball dynasty at Kyle High School in the late 1950s (five consecutive state tournament appearances) and founding superintendent of the Hays CISD in 1967.

“We’re advocates of old town Kyle,” Johnson said. “We’re not running from it or hiding from it. We think it’s a doable deal.”

The council then directed city staff to investigate the feasibility of the site on the northwest corner of Burleson and Schlemmer Streets. Kyle City Manager Tom Mattis said the staff will come back to the city council with information about the land’s availability, price and feasibility within 30 days.

Tuesday’s action means the city is drifting from a prior inclination to place the new library on a site just east of the intersection where Center Street dead ends into the eastern frontage road of Interstate-35. Barshop & Oles, which purchased the property in 2004 intending to put an H-E-B there, has since offered a portion of that land for a library while pursuing a different development deal with the city.

“When we were deliberating (about the Barshop & Oles site) originally, we weren’t even aware this other (downtown) land was available,” library building committee member Rhonda Cox said to the council.

The viability of a downtown library came into sharper focus last week after the Hays County Commissioners Court took action that stands to place delays on the Barshop & Oles library site. The commissioners approved $19.5 million in revenue bonds for a variety of highway projects, including a re-routing of SH 150, which presently runs with Center Street until the frontage road, then runs along the two-way frontage road for about 300 yards to the south before turning back east.

The highway projects would include changing the frontage road to a one-way going north, then extending SH 150 along Center Street east past the frontage road before it is reconnected with the portion existing to the south.

Because the construction could take up to five years, the building of a new library on the Barshop & Oles site could be delayed for up to five years. And library advocates are tired of waiting, since the present library adjacent to Kyle Elementary School already is too small for a city grown to nearly 30,000 residents.

“We’ve been extremely patient for two years and we are out of room,” Cox said.

The library building committee’s recommendation to council asked that no more than ten percent of the budget for building a library be expended on land. In that case, the ceiling for land acquisition could come to about $200,000, because it’s unlikely the city will spring for more than $2 million to build a new library.

Mattis emphasized that the city built its new city hall, a fire station on the east side of town and a public swimming pool on the western edge of downtown for a combined $5 million.

Kyle Mayor Mike Gonzalez, who mentioned that “the hardest thing to fight is indifference,” said he was pleased to see a group of citizens like the Old Town Advocates fight for a downtown library.

“Projects like these are amenity projects,” Gonzalez said. “We want a project the community is excited about. As long as people are willing to come out like this, that shows passion.”

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