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EPL seeks $62M for renovations to Stanley A. Milner library

(WATCH: Plans are on the table for a multi-million dollar renovation of the Stanley A. Milner Library. But, as Vinesh Pratap reports, there are cost concerns.)

EDMONTON — Edmonton City Council has made it clear – money is tight and projects must be prioritized in the upcoming budget. So is allotting $62 million for upgrades and renovations at the downtown library one of those priorities?

At nearly 50 years old, Edmonton Public Library CEO Linda Cook says the Stanley A. Milner Library is not up to code.

“Very little of the building right now meets the 2006 Alberta building code,” she explained. “We need to replace a roof, we need to replace a mechanical system.”

The city has set aside about $13.7 million for rehabilitation work, but EPL is looking for more. Located in the heart of downtown, Cook says the aging facility isn’t keeping up with the renewal in the area.

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“We have this beautiful City Hall, we have the lovely Winspear and we have our poor Stanley A. Milner looking like the poor cousin on the square.”

Cook says the additional money would fund a complete renewal, including an upgrade to the outer façade.

“At the same time as we’re fixing the inside, which is where the majority of the money will go, we thought it would be great to enhance the exterior as well,” she said.

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Stanley A. Milner Library gets ready for a facelift

Mayor Don Iveson believes the city would get great return on a $62 million investment, saying council “can’t afford not to do Milner because it needs so much work in the guts of the building.”

“The structure is solid, but we’re going to have to spend tens of millions of dollars just doing basic work anyway. If we can tear the whole thing apart and put it back together more beautiful and more energy efficient … Then let’s only put patrons and staff through the disruption once. And let’s have a great public library when we’re done.”

Feelings about the $62 million investment are mixed on council, though.

“I think that we have to be very cognizant that it’s just a big number and I’m having a tough time trying to support a $62 million ask,” said Ward 11 councillor Mike Nickel. “This is supposed to be a tight budget.”

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According to Cook, the cost of the planned renovations would have cost in the area of $44 million four years ago. Now, that cost has escalated to $62 million.

So the question remains, how does the city pay for the renovations if it decides to go all-in?

“Whether we’re able to use maybe the CRL to help have new tax revenue downtown help pay it for example, I think all options are on the table,” said Iveson.

“I don’t think there’s a huge appetite for A. a big tax increase, or B. kicking the can down the road for someone else to pay for it. And that’s what really the debt question is,” said Nickel.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m very pro library, I’m very pro library. We’re getting a new one in Mill Woods and I’m very, very grateful for that. But perhaps we need to kick the redo of the façade down to the next Capital cycle and just give them the $13 million for upkeep.”

The decision will be made by city council next week.

Stanley A. Milner is the second-busiest library in the city, with Whitemud Crossing seeing the most visitors per year.

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With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.

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