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Regina Public Library set to vote on future of historical central branch

The Regina Public Library board is expected to vote on the demolition and construction of the library at its public meeting on Sept. 27. According to Havelock, the RPL considered seven options for the central library, but none of them were presented to the public and decisions were made behind closed doors. File / Global News

The Regina Public Library (RPL) has been a staple in the community for years, and the idea of rebuilding a new central branch has become a controversial topic.

The RPL board wants to demolish the downtown Central Library and build a new one in its place, rather than improve the current building for roughly $50 million.

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But for Joanne Havelock, the chair of the Friends of the Regina Public Library, she questions how much the actual new building will cost in comparison.

The RPL board is expected to vote on the demolition and construction of the library at its public meeting on Sept. 27. According to Havelock, the RPL considered seven options for the central library, but none of them were presented to the public and decisions were made behind closed doors.

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She hopes the board considers taking more time to listen to the public and will take into consideration options that allow for expansion and maintaining the heritage of the original.

“I feel that there should be options where the heritage and the basic structure of the current building is maintained,” Havelock said. “If an expansion is wanted, there’s room to the west of the building, or there are options of building a structure that goes on top of the current building.”

The RPL board has said it will release the other options on Friday, Sept. 16. However, if members of the public want to present their thoughts, they will need read the report and have their presentation ready by noon on Sept. 20 — which is only four days after the report releases.

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“People need time to look at the various options that were prepared by the library board consultant and have time to comment on those different options before the library board takes any decisions,” Havelock said.

When asked about how long she feels would be adequate time to review the report, she said, “I would think we would need two or three months. People need time to read the reports and then there needs to be time to have public meetings to talk about what’s in the reports.

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“This is a big-ticket item and it’s a very important building for the city of Regina.”

The building was opened in 1962 and needs major renovations to bring the structure up to code, including reinforcing the roof, upgrading the heating system and improving a dated electrical system.

Havelock believes the best way forward is to preserve the original, but also make the necessary upgrades and expansions if needed.

“I think it’s a challenging task to balance all of those elements, but it’s doable,” she said.

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