LA GRANDE - Presiding over a groundbreaking ceremony for the city's new library, Mayor Colleen Johnson reminded everyone the project has been on the city council's agenda for 30 years.

"This is a sweet moment," Johnson said. "Next year we'll be celebrating National Library Week in our brand new city library."

She shared the stage with City Manager Wes Hare, La Grande Library Foundation President Di Lynn Larsen-Hill and La Grande Library Commission chairwoman Sandra Donnelly.

"We never gave up on the dream," Larsen-Hill said.

She said the existing library had the same kind of community start when 160 people brought a proposal to the City Council in 1911.

The foundation, established in 1997, took on the task of raising $750,000 in grants and community donations for the construction project. It's raised more than $671,000 so far, Larsen-Hill said.

"It says a lot about the people of La Grande and their concern for the future," Hare said.

The new library is being constructed at Fourth and Adams streets at the former Safeway site.

Following the speakers, several groups used gold-painted shovels to perform the groundbreaking.

These included the City Council, foundation members and a group of student winners of the foundation's latest read-a-thon.

With a low bid of $3,485,000, Slettin Construction of Boise was awarded the contract to build the library. Hare reported officials of the company had told him they were ready to start in April and may be able to complete the project by the end of the year.

The 19,000 square foot library is designed to serve 25,000 people, the population of Union County. About 33 percent of library patrons live outside of La Grande. The city has budgeted $5,572,000 for the library project.

This includes $995,452 for site acquisition and preparation, $800,000 for architectural and development costs, $3,485,000 for construction and $291,548 for contingency.

Hare has estimated that operating costs for the new library are expected to remain at about $400,000 a year.

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