LA GRANDE - With construction drawings still to be completed, the new La Grande Library is on track to go out for bid by the end of the year.

"I'm pretty confidant that's it," said Di Lynn Larsen-Hill, referring to the latest set of exterior drawing submitted by Randy Nishimura of Robertson Sherwood Architects of Eugene. This firm is working with Otak, an architectural firm hired by Oregon Dental Services, which is constructing a dental school and an office building next to the downtown location of the library.

"The library will be built without additional money from the public," Larsen-Hill noted. She is president of the La Grande Community Library Foundation board. This group was formed to raise funds for the completion of the project.

A design committee has disbanded and the Urban Renewal Agency and the La Grande City Council have approved funding plans several months ago.

La Grande City Manager Wes Hare said the projected cost of the new community library has risen to about $6.175 million, but that available funding at this level was secure. He attributed the increase to the rise in the cost of steel and to higher construction costs than were originally foreseen.

Hare said the boost in funding was the result of a commitment from the Oregon Economic Community Development Department to increase its level of funding to $4.115 million.

No payments will be made on the OECDD 25-year loan for the first 30-months, and interest will not accumulate until funds are actually withdrawn.

The Library Foundation's goal is to raise $750,000 to contribute toward the design and construction costs of the library. The foundation plans to continue its efforts through the end of 2005, Larsen-Hill said.

"This is not a short-term effort," she said.

The amount of money raised will offset the amount borrowed from the OECDD. Interest on the funds to be borrowed will be 1.5 percent for the first 30-months and 5.4 percent afterwards.

The planned library will cover 19,000 square feet and include a community meeting room, archival space, a staff area and adult and children's sections.

Wireless Internet access is planned as well as computer terminals inside the library. With this, Hare said, a patron with a wireless card in a computer can access the Internet by just driving into the library's parking lot any time of the day.

"This is an important feature for a town to have," Hare said.

The Library Foundation is working on a major funding request mailing, Larsen-Hill said. This will go out to Union County residents, former residents and local civic groups.

Another project will give donors permanent name recognition or win the right to name something - from a chair to an entire section - depending on the amount of the donation. A gift of $200,000 will win the right to permanently name the children's wing in the new library.

A reserve fund of $692,000 already has been committed by the city. Larsen-Hill was one of several city council members in the mid-1990s who urged the city to re-establish a capital construction reserve fund to go toward a new community library.

A future bequest of more that $2 million has been promised to the Library Foundation. Once this is received, it will be used to reduce the level of the OECDD loan.

Larsen-Hill said another fund-raising effort is in grant writing.

A city council work session to go over the project budget is scheduled for Oct. 4.

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