LAFAYETTE -- A plan to bring life back to the old Lafayette library building is moving forward, after city leaders approved this week buying the property from the county.
The $1.97 million purchase comes more than 17 years after the city agreed to acquire the old library as part of a lawsuit settlement stemming from the formation of the city's redevelopment agency, which has since been dissolved.
Under the deal, the city will dip into about $7.5 million of general fund reserves to buy the 6,720-square-foot property on Moraga Road. About $157,500 will go to the county to pay for legal fees and past property management. The county will put the rest of the proceeds into a "special fund" for creating additional library hours, acquiring books and materials and maintaining technical equipment at the new Lafayette library. If the city decides to sell the property within 10 years, the proceeds would remain restricted to library uses.
Those terms aren't sitting well with one resident who calls the deal a "backward way" to pay for library maintenance. On Monday, he questioned the county requirement that the city use proceeds from a future sale of the property for library maintenance.
The resident also blasted the formation of a citizen's task force that will consider plans for how to use the building. The city seeks proposals for uses not only of that building but also for four city-owned parcels across the street.
According to a staff report, if another public entity purchases the property, the city would use those proceeds to reimburse the general fund.
If the task force should decide the building should house new city offices, staffers would use $2.65 million saved for that purpose to reimburse the general fund.
"I believe that is allowable under the current agreement," said administrative services director Tracy Robinson.
Council members touted the purchase as a good deal for the city.
"It's my understanding that if we did not purchase the library from the county as we had stated we would, the county ... could sell it to whoever they wanted to," said Councilwoman Traci Reilly.
Reilly also stressed the significance of the site's location near Lafayette Elementary School. "That piece of property is really important. Being able to have some say on what goes into that property since it abuts ... our downtown elementary school, I think is a good deal," she said.
The council also discussed -- but did not formally announce -- the names of some residents appointed to the task force that will consider proposals for the two sites, including the idea to convert the old library into new city offices.
The deadline to submit a proposal is Jan. 1.