Rimbey announces plebiscite on library

Rimbey residents will get to vote on the future of their library.

Rimbey residents will get to vote on the future of their library.

Council recently decided to take to a plebiscite a controversial plan to expand the library and move town hall into the local provincial building.

The proposal to sell the town hall space left vacant for $1 to the library board became an unlikely hot topic around town.

It spawned a 437-name petition calling for a plebiscite in the October municipal election. After review, the petition was considered non-binding because it didn’t meet requirements that a clear question be asked.

However, council decided that it was time to put the question of whether the community supported the library plan to rest once and for all. A plebiscite will be held on June 3, with voting to take place at town hall from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We decided to do that because it had become obvious this had become a divisive issue,” said Mayor Sheldon Ibbotson. “By going to a public vote it settles the question for and against.”

The town could have gone ahead without a vote.

“But you would have had people say we didn’t listen to public opinion and they wouldn’t support it and it would be an issue that would linger in the community for some time,” he said.

If the support is there, the town is pretty much ready to start renovation work once provincial approval for leasing their space is lined up.

A “no” vote will mean exploring other options — almost guaranteed to be more expensive — to expand the library, which is in desperate need of more space.

Adding a floor or some other addition would likely be required. That would involve significant local fundraising and a search for matching grants and delay the project for years.

While the plebiscite is non-binding, Ibbotson said council will honour the decision of citizens.

The Rimbey Municipal Library Board supports the move and encouraged town council in an April 24 letter to put the expansion question to the public.

“We do not like to see the town become divisive over this issue nor do we like the negative impact it is having on the library,” says board chair Rowena Aitken. “We feel that unfortunately this is the only way to stop the negativity.”

The board also asked the town to call in an engineer to look at the viability of expanding the library’s existing building.