Nov 21
Bethany Baker, The Umpqua Post

REEDSPORT — Supporters of a new Lower Umpqua Library District have started their steady march toward placing a measure on the May 2018 ballot.

Still, volunteers must get the minimum number of signatures by Nov. 21. Volunteers had official petition sheets at Price 'N Pride and Safeway over the weekend. Additionally, voters can come by dentist Gary Goorhuis's office to sign the sheets. Goorhuis's office is at 2731 Frontage Rd. in Reedsport.

Douglas County Clerk Patty Hitt said "they need to collect 15 percent of the registered voters in the district, or 100, whichever is higher."

"In this case, the proposed district has 4,165 registered voters," Hitt wrote in an email. "They will need to collect 625 signatures."

With this in mind, volunteer Ron Eberlein said the goal is to get 700 signatures to provide a buffer.

Speaking over lunch at Don's Diner recently, fellow volunteer Sandi Donnelly said supporters presented their proposal twice to the Reedsport City Council. The first time was Oct. 2. Councilor Mark Bedard was absent from the first council meeting and the vote was tied in terms of referring the measure to voters. The second time around, supporters had better fortune, with councilors voting 4-2 to refer the measure to residents on Oct. 16 at a special meeting.

"I figure we're about halfway there," Eberlein said. "I've got about 100 (signatures)."

"What I've found is that most people are supportive," Donnelly said. However she and others around the table observed that not necessarily everyone is registered to vote.

Volunteers feel more comfortable now politically with how the measure will be viewed.

For one thing, they're asking for 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That compares to 44 cents per $1,000. Goorhuis said "this is actually $20,000 to $30,000 less" than the county measure that voters shot down last November.

The 44 cents per $1,000 applied to the November 2016 measure that would have kept all 11 libraries throughout Douglas County open.

Donnelly said another positive is that Reedsport's facility never closed. This came despite slashes in timber revenue that kept county libraries open — including Reedsport's.

Once the minimum number of signatures are collected, then Hitt will review those. The last day for people to register will be April 25. According to a flier from supporters, Clerks' Office employees will mail ballots at the end of April. May 16 is the last day to vote.

The district would encompass the Lower Umpqua Hospital District, including Winchester Bay, Reedsport, Gardiner, Scottsburg, Wells Creek and then north to the county line and south to the county line.

"One thing I'd like to emphasize is the economic benefit to Reedsport," Goorhuis said of the library.

Donnelly and Eberlein said the library is widely used, including for story time for children. Donnelly said some residents don't have computers at home and therefore the library computers give them a means to check their emails.

The library isn't simply about books.

Eberlein said there's a LEGOs club and a chess group.

Goorhuis and others hope to feature a Spanish-English children's reading club, which to the best of his knowledge would be the first at a library along the coast. He'd like to see a photography club there at the library too, offering high school class credit to teens.

If voters approve the measure, then a new district will form in June. However new funding won't start flowing from taxes until January 2019. That's why grant funding and other sources of money will continue to be critical. Money's come in from residents, plus Jordan Cove, REEF, the local summer reading program, the DuneFest Charity Auction.

Volunteers are applying for the Oregon Community Foundation Bridge Grant, Eberlein added.

In other positive news for library supporters, $45,639 was donated to the facility. Interim Finance Director Jessica Terra said this amount was placed in the general operations for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The money specifically comes from the estate of John Warden, who passed away seven years ago, Eberlein said. That money then went to the Douglas County Library Foundation.

"At some point, the Reedsport Library Advisory Board will discuss how these funds should be invested and used for future, continued operations of the Reedsport Public Library," Terra said.

"The directors of the district have to be elected as well so they'll be on the ballot," Goorhuis noted.

Eberlein worked 12 and a half years at Lower Umpqua Hospital and is now retired, having worked in bio-medical, information technology and maintenance.

"But I've lived in Reedsport 37 years and we've used the library (all that time)," he said. Smiling, he added: "it was every Monday night we'd go down and get books."

That's now changed in recent years since the facility's closed Mondays.

In addition to his services as a volunteer, Eberlein is now chairman of the library advisory board. City officials required formation of the board.

"I've been really impressed with how the community comes together," Goorhuis said. "I can't think of any other issue that's galvanized people as much."

Hitt added that "in order for a person to sign a petition sheet, they need to be an active, registered voter in the district."

"If they are not an active voter, they will need to register before they sign the petition," Hitt wrote. "They can do that by going online and allowing a couple of days for the registration to get to us and then sign the petition."

The Umpqua Post Editor Shelby Case can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 296 or shelby.case@theworldlink.com.

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Umpqua Post Editor