Pines & Plains Library board considers big changes

Upgrades in Elizabeth, new northwest branch among future possibilities

The Pines & Plains Libraries system is in a state of flux ahead of possible significant changes. 
In addition to the recent decision that returned all branches to curbside service on Jan. 5, Director Tim Miller left on Nov. 9 for another job and a 20-year employee who had served as administrative assistant system also left.
The transitional period, however, will make way for big renovations and a possible expansion for the library system.
In a phone interview with Pines & Plains Libraries Board of Trustees Treasurer Alan Krenek, he said that although the library system is facing current challenges, there are big, positive changes likely coming in the near future, specifically at the Elizabeth Library.
“We have a certain amount of money that we’re going to spend in the next few years,” said Krenek. “We recently paid off the current building, so we are going to use the money from that to expand the back of the building and finish the area that currently serves as storage space.”
When asked what their plans are for those newly developed and restored spaces, Krenek said the board intends to serve the needs of the growing community of Elizabeth.
“We want to have meeting rooms open to the public. Right now, there is no place in Elizabeth where you can have a large meeting without paying an arm and a leg. We only have one small meeting room right now, but we want to have a meeting room that can seat over 100 people and one to seat about half of that,” explained Krenek. “There are a whole bunch of subdivisions under construction now. People are moving into the area. We want to give the best service we can to the people in the county.”
Krenek also indicated that Pines & Plains Libraries is strongly considering expanding through the creation of a fifth library branch, in addition to the current facilities in Elizabeth, Kiowa, Elbert and Simla. The new branch would serve the northwest high-density region of Elbert County.
“We’re looking into plans expanding into a fifth library near Corral Market on Singing Hills Road. We’ve thought about building a stand-alone building, though with the cost, we are looking into a current structure,” said Krenek. “Once people become accustomed to going to that library, we will likely expand on it. All of those plans will be further discussed after the COVID situation is handled in the county, so hopefully early spring.”
In addition to these changes and the possible expansion, the first project that the library board plans to tackle is to expand paving and outdoor lighting around the Elizabeth Library property. The board also plans to begin preliminary drawings for the inside renovations. “I suspect within the next 12 months there will be some major changes,” said Krenek.
When asked how the library system plans to pay for these renovations and possible expansion, Krenek said Pines & Plains is in a secure financial state and will be ready to make the changes.
“We’re not sure if it’s going to be best to try to take out a loan to fund the operations or if we’re going to do it in phases as we can afford it. The board is trying to be very cautious and not extend ourselves,” said Krenek. “Financially, we’re in pretty good shape. We haven’t had to raise the mill levy since 2000. We just approved the new mill levy which was the same as last year.”
All these changes, however, come at a cost. The most recently approved budget for the library system reduced the compensation and hours of former administrative assistant and 20-year library employee Wendy Walp, who left to take a job with Kiowa-based drilling contractor PanTerra Energy.
Walp provided the Elbert County News with a statement that said in part:
“'Don’t be afraid to start all over again. You may like your new story better.’ I think this is perfect for where I’m at in my journey! I loved working at the Elbert County Library District for 20 years and saw myself staying there until I simply couldn’t work any longer. I didn’t think of it as a job. It was a way of life!”
Walp added that she “will always be an advocate for the library.”


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