Questions and Answers about the Lewes Public Library’s request for support from the City of Lewes

Please support our Library project

Please help the Library project by petitioning City of Lewes officials on behalf of the Lewes Library grant request for support of the new Library facility.

The Library has asked Mayor and Council for approximately $1 million to help construct a 21st century public library and community center. This would come from the sale of two (of 12) lots on Lewes Beach, requiring no increase in taxes.

The Library is coming to the table with more than $9.9 million. Mayor and Council need to know there is support from Lewes residents for this request.

Ways You Can Support This Request

  • Attend the public workshop 5 p.m. Wednesday, January 7 in City Hall to express your support for this request and to share any ideas you may have for possible future uses of the existing Library building.

Questions and Answers about the Lewes Public Library’s
request for support from the City of Lewes

Because the issues are complex and have generated much discussion, the Library Board has assembled these responses to frequently asked questions.

1. What is the Library requesting?

The Library is asking for two things: first, that the proceeds from fee waivers, credits for other funding and the sale of two City-owned lots on Lewes Beach (a total of approx. $1 million) be used to support construction of the new Library; and second, that the City consider an annual grant of $40,000 to continue its long tradition of helping support the cost of Library utilities and maintenance.

2. Hasn’t the City given $1 million to the Library from the sale of three lots in town?

No. The City sold three lots for $960,000 in 2013 to help finance its purchase of 5.6 acres of land on Freeman Highway. That land will be used for several purposes (a park, a trailhead and a new Library site). Essentially, the City of Lewes exchanged property worth $960,000 with less potential for public use, for property valued at $2.5 million, for significant public use.

To help the City with this purchase, the Library put forth $1.24 million (half from the LPL endowment, half from their Division of Libraries (DDL) reimbursement) – in essence giving the City that amount for the right to build a new Library on land the City would own.

3. Did the Library have other, less expensive options than building on this new site?

Yes, the Library was given land at Five Points on which to build a new facility. However, because of strong City and resident desire to keep the Library within city limits, the Library board agreed to build on the Thompson property site, and to make a substantial payment to help purchase that property.

Due to a deed restriction, the Five Point land cannot be used for any other purpose than a Library site and thus has no foreseeable value. Had the new Library been built there, however, our overall project cost would have been much less.

4. Why is the Library making this request now?

The Library and City have had a long-standing relationship over more than 50 years during which the City has sold other land holdings and provided the proceeds to help the Library acquire land and construct new facilities.

When the Library and DDL provided $1.24 million to assist the City in its purchase of 5.6 acres, discussions were held with City leaders concerning a subsequent funding request the Library would make of $1 million to help partially reimburse that expense. While no formal agreement was signed, this was an important consideration in deciding to proceed with the Library project.

5. Why should the Library be treated differently than any other local non-profit?

The Lewes region is blessed with many outstanding non-profit organizations that provide important services — but none is as central to so many purposes, here or in any community, as their local Library. This fact is recognized by the significant financial support provided by state and county agencies and, historically, by the City of Lewes; for example:

  • The new Library is being reimbursed 50% of its land and construction costs from the Delaware Division of Libraries. No other local non-profit receives such support from a designated state agency.
  • The Library receives 25% of its operating support from Sussex County and 26% from the State of Delaware. No other non-profit receives this level of county and state operating support.
  • The Library serves every resident of Lewes and the Lewes area at no cost, with a wide variety of important services for all ages. Its large new meeting rooms, for example, computer training and access areas, print and online collections and designated areas for children and teens, will be used by residents, the City, many clubs and civic groups and local non-profits at no charge.
  • The Library and DDL have put forth $1.24 million to make this project possible. No other Library in the State of Delaware has ever made that large a contribution toward land acquisition.
  • A new Library will enhance City property values and attract visitors, which benefits local businesses. Apart from Beebe Hospital, no other local organization experiences the hours and usage of the Library – now over 525 visitors daily, expected to be more than 730 within six years.
  • While the services and operations of many local non-profits are seasonal in nature, the Library is open 296 days per year (6 days each week, 51 hours total) representing 2,569 annual hours of service.

6. Are Lewes residents being asked to pay a disproportionate amount for a facility that will serve people beyond the Lewes area?

To date, 71.4% of the dollar value of individual gifts made to the Library campaign have come from donors outside the City of Lewes. While there are 2,800 City residents among the 17,000 people in the Library service area, Lewes residents account for 25% of our daily visitors. Some 60% of Lewes residents are active Library card-holders.

7. Will the existing Library building be a costly burden for the City once the Library moves to its new facility?

Numerous local and state organizations are already inquiring about use of the existing building, putting the City in an excellent position to negotiate favorable terms for sale or lease, any needed improvements and maintenance. Having a qualified new tenant or owner will be a plus situation for the City.

The existing building (insured for $3 million) and the 5.6 acres recently acquired (appraised at $2.5 million before improvements) represent an asset of at least $5.5 million on the City’s balance sheet.

8. What is the rationale for the Library request for $40,000 in annual utility and maintenance expenses?

This represents a continuation of the support the City has provided to the Library for the past 50 years. As a fixed amount, it will not increase in years to come. Discussion is underway as to whether the City or Library will own the new facility (although the City will remain owner of the land), and what the responsibilities may be for either party.