My concern as a citizen of El Centro, a taxpayer and a parent — and really, a person whose work must be read by literate people — is that we have a library period.
That’s just not going to cut it, El Centro. This is one of those quality-of-life issues I can’t believe more people aren’t raging over.
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With fiscal responsibility being paramount in tough times, it’s clear the city cannot just go and rent a bigger building today and be able to pay rent and utilities and do improvements without adversely affecting the general fund.
But waiting until September at the earliest is a concern as well. It’s only March; that’s six months minimum with no legit library.
The council directed staff to open negotiations with the owners of the old Miller’s Outpost building on North Imperial Avenue, and to think of it, that’s probably as good of a place as any with its size and accessibility.
There are issues of who will do the improvements, but I hear there isn’t too much that needs to be done; some plumbing, some walls and office space construction maybe, a little electrical maintenance. It’s nothing that probably can’t be knocked out in a month.
The hitch for the city is it can’t afford to rent the building until its grant money comes through in September.
It seems to me the owners of the building could do a great public service by handing over the keys right now and allowing the city six months free rent until the grant comes through. After all, the owners have been courting the city to move the library there for months.
It’s the right thing to do, and I can’t see how it wouldn’t benefit the owners. The building gets occupied quickly and could probably be open to the public by the start of the summer.
Plus, I can’t fathom that there wouldn’t be some kind of huge tax break for the owners by eating the rent for six months for a good cause.
If you believe statistics, in 2003, some 41.5 percent of all Imperial County residents age 16 and older were lacking basic literacy skills. It’s apples and oranges, maybe, but for a county to be struggling with an illiterate population to that degree, and the county seat not to have a fully functioning library … it just feels criminal.
The community needs its library. Our kids need their library. September is a long time away, including an entire summer of trying to hold summer reader programs in less-than-roomy conditions.
It might not be such a bad idea to write a letter or two to the owners of the old Miller’s building urging this idea for consideration. Write to: HRG Fresno THS, LLC, Forest City Enterprises Inc., 50 Public Square, Suite 1340, Cleveland, OH 44113.
UPDATE: A few weeks ago I wrote about taking up a collection for the mural on Waterman Avenue across from Hedrick Elementary in El Centro.
A few of you sent in some money, and we have a pot of $80. Hedrick Principal Rauna Fox wants this to get done and has committed the expertise of the Rainforest Art Project.
Rainforest director Dan Evers has already gotten permission from the homeowner to redo the mural. Volunteers will be needed, so in coming weeks I’ll be putting that out there.