Failure of bond a huge letdown for supporters

Cornelius Public Library Director Karen Hill was trying to prepare herself for both the passage and the failure of the $2.4 million library bond measure on the ballot last week.

She hoped it would pass, but had heard comments from both sides, so didn’t feel sure.

With only 32 percent of the city's 4,382 registered voters casting ballots, the measure failed 53 percent to 47 percent.

That’s far closer than the last time the city put forth a money measure for a library/community center and only 29 percent voted yes, back in 2004.

The closer margin of defeat is somewhat comforting, Hill said, but still, “when it actually comes down to it, it’s very disappointing.”

“I think they came darn close,” said City Manager Rob Drake, “especially considering the financial climate. There were a lot of measures that failed statewide by a lot worse.”

Drake hasn’t yet talked with Cornelius City Council members about whether they want to go back out with the measure in the next election, six months from now.

Even if they did, he said, the big question would be whether Bienestar was still available as a partner.

Bienestar is the affordable-housing nonprofit that would have invested $8 million into the Cornelius Place project to create two floors of affordable senior housing above the library.

Not knowing the different funding cycles and grant cycles, Drake said, he’s aware that “Bienestar may have to move on.”

He and Hill will meet Friday with Bienestar officials, and Drake has asked everyone to come ready to consider: “What if the council and the public say, ‘We need another try here?'"

Hill isn’t sure everyone would be on board. “The people that worked really hard at the end, I think they’re exhausted and don’t want to think about starting over,” she said. “It’s such an emotional letdown.”

Still, the fact that the measure lost by less than 80 votes is tantalizing. “If 38 people had changed their minds,” she said, it would have passed.

If 800 library patrons had voted for it.

“We have more than 3,000 cardholders,” Hill said. But they’re not all over 18. And they’re not all registered to vote.

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