Council meeting packed with folks who want to see a new library in town

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - It was a full house Monday night at the Cornelius City Council meeting, when about 100 supporters of a new library proposal packed the room.A rare spectacle occurred at Monday night’s Cornelius City Council meeting: the house was packed. About 100 community members flocked to the session to show their support for a new library building, a plan for which has been in the works for several years.

The proposal for a $13.5 million mixed-use library project at 14th Avenue and Adair Street (Cornelius taxpayers would bear about $2 million of the cost) would give the Cornelius library more room for programs, services and materials. “You wanted to see the support? I think now you’ve seen it,” Melanie Johnston, a member of the Friends of the Cornelius Library said to council members. “There’s no one that isn’t excited about this. I’m thrilled for somewhere we can call our own. Let’s go — we can do this.” More than a dozen supporters from a variety of backgrounds rose to address the council, and many were met with applause. “This is the first step,” said Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin, who voiced his support for the project along with all the councilors. “But we are running a marathon.” Annabelle Carlos, a crime prevention specialist for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, showed her support for the library because it would provide more programs, activities and resources to educate youth and provide a safe place for kids outside of school. Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski said he was “excited to hear about your new library. It provides a chance for folks who want to get ahead and who want to improve themselves. I hope you’ll go ahead and approve it.” Kathryn Harrington of Metro said she was excited to see the “'Family town' evolve into the 21st century” and offered her assistance. Several mothers came forward to speak about the impact the library has in their children’s lives. Damaris Andrade, a Cornelius mother and frequent visitor to the library with her kids was one of them.

"The library has given us so much and we have learned so much there,” she said. Another mother testified her children were above their grade level in reading because of the library's support.    According to a 2012 City of Cornelius poll, the average reading scores of Cornelius elementary school students are 12 percent lower than the state average, and nearly 15 percent of high school students from Cornelius drop out, while 28 percent don’t graduate on time. In all but one elementary school (some Cornelius students go to Forest Grove schools and some to Hillsboro schools), there is no librarian and no budget for books. The younger set also showed their support for a new library. About half a dozen youth came before the council to share their thoughts, most centering around the currently sparse book selection and the importance the Cornelius library holds for them.   “I don’t like our library because it’s too small and we don’t have enough books,” said Jasmine Munoz. Rocio Meraz mirrored the sentiment. Currently, the library sits at 1355 N. Barlow St. in Cornelius. The plan includes a 16,000-square-foot library and a 3,500-square-foot community meeting space on the first level and senior housing on the second level with the main entrance on the corner of 14th Avenue and Adair Street. “I can’t even tell you how exciting this is for us,” said Jennifer Heuer, Cornelius Library Board president, as she came to tears.

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