Now's The Time
October 15, 2009 4:48 PM
It's a good question that deserves a good answer: Why in the midst of the toughest city budget in decades am I proposing a new $37 million Central Library? The simple answer is that, like a lot of things worth doing, the library proposal is terrible short-run politics but excellent long-run public policy. Here are four more reasons to do it now:
First, we're getting some of the best construction bids in history right now. In the last two city library projects, Sequoya and South Madison, the bids were respectively more than 29% and 18% below the engineers estimate for these projects. No one seriously disagrees that we need a new library. The current facility is a tired mess. But if we wait for better economic times to build it, the price will only grow much higher as contractors will be less hungry for work.
Second, we're borrowing at some of the lowest interest rates in recent history. Our latest borrowing package came in at 2.25%. We can also take advantage of Federal programs like New Markets Tax Credits and American Recovery Act bonds that will take down the cost of borrowing even further. But like low bids, these programs won't be around forever.
Third, we need the 200 to 300 construction jobs this project will create right now. In some trades one out of four workers is unemployed.
Finally, the decision we make now will be one we have to live with for 50 to 100 years, which should be the life of this building. It would be a mistake to make a short-run decision based on today's headlines only to regret it when we look at it in the light of better times.