OAKLEY -- Plans to move Oakley's library downtown are on hold -- for now.
A nonprofit group that's been pushing to free the library from its cramped quarters on a high school campus by installing it in a former Main Street grocery store told the Oakley City Council on Tuesday that it's suspending its campaign after failing to win council members' wholehearted endorsement last month.
Friends of the Oakley Library pitched its plan again at the council's Jan. 22 meeting, where council members were scheduled to decide whether to put a parcel tax on the ballot in hopes of raising the approximately $5 million needed to renovate the aging CentroMart building.
Although many library patrons turned out in a show of support for the idea, the council postponed its vote, saying it wanted to proceed carefully given that the election would cost an estimated $92,000 -- money the city would recover only if the measure passed.
The reservations that council members voiced upset those who were hoping the city would set a date for a special election this spring.
Instead, the council asked Friends of the Oakley Library to provide a more detailed description of how it intended to market the project.
"We were disappointed that you did not act at the last meeting," said President Linda Pennock on Tuesday. "We were hurt by the council's indecision."
She noted that her group had a campaign consultant review its marketing plan, but Pennock balked at the idea of presenting it at a council meeting.
"Sharing a plan in a public setting does not seem to be strategic if opponents are out there," she said.
Pennock told council members that their comments had undermined volunteers' enthusiasm for the undertaking and blamed news media coverage for fueling the opposition.
"(It's) all very disheartening," she said.
She said Friends of the Oakley Library will take a break for 60 days to see if others come forward with an alternative solution to the library's limited space.
City officials haven't ruled out other uses for the empty store, which City Manager Bryan Montgomery acknowledged was blight.
But he reiterated that selling the property is a complicated, time-consuming process because it was bought with redevelopment money.
Although the city has been overseeing properties like the CentroMart site since its redevelopment agency was dismantled a year ago, state law requires it to submit plans for selling or otherwise transferring ownership of these type of assets for approval.
In the case of the CentroMart building, Oakley first must complete other stages in the convoluted process of determining the value of its former redevelopment agency's assets, settling its debts and deciding what happens to its real estate holdings.
"In short, the (CentroMart) property is in limbo for months," Montgomery said.
The city might decide to seek the state's blessing on selling the building to Dollar General Market.
It would be the second time Oakley has gone down that road: The city entered negotiations last year with the developer representing the Tennessee-based retail chain, but it backed out after the two parties couldn't agree on which type of outlet the company wanted to open: A DG "market" that sells groceries as well as general merchandise or one that's doesn't sell any fresh food.
Montgomery suggested Tuesday that the council consider trying again, which he and others think would be preferable to an investor buying the property for a song and then doing nothing with it.
Reach Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.