Efforts to build a new library in downtown Washougal are continuing at a slow but steady pace.
The Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) Foundation has collected $1.6 million for the construction of the new library, which will require at least $5 million to build, according to Friends of Washougal Community Library President Roy DeRousie.
The $1.6 million includes separate contributions of $1 million and $450,000 from the FVRL’s board of directors. Individual donations and the Friends’ fundraising events, such as the annual Dinner in White on the Columbia, as well as book sales have added to the $1.6 million total.
“People in the community have been supportive,” DeRousie said, “but they want to know what (the new library) is going to be before they donate, and I understand that. Personally, I want a library that will serve the needs of people for the next 50 to 100 years. The current library was built in 1983 and is 2,400 square feet. Back then, Washougal’s population was about 4,000 people. Now it’s over 16,000 and continues to grow.”
Efforts to build a new library began in December 2013 after a facilities study conducted by a local consulting firm identified the need for new FVRL facilities in Washougal, Ridgefield and Woodland.
“FVRL is working to build a new home for Washougal Community Library that will provide more materials, resources, internet and computer access, and additional space for meetings, study, programs and workshops,” according to a statement on the FVRL’s website. “The FVRL Foundation’s efforts will help raise funds to meet the funding gap between FVRL’s budget and tax income.”
In April 2019, Washougal residents Wes and Diane Hickey agreed to donate a vacant, 18,000-square-foot parcel of land on the intersection of Main and Durgan streets in downtown Washougal for the future library.
FVRL communications and marketing director Tak Kendrick told the Post-Record last week that “the donation is still in progress.”
“We are doing our due diligence, including (an) environmental study on the site, which should be done soon,” he said. “Presumably, we’d then take the recommendation to our board to finalize the decision. FVRL would be the owners (of the site) once that’s done. We don’t have a timeline yet for when a board decision would happen, but remain confident it’d be soon.”
Fundraising efforts will escalate once FVRL officially assumes ownership of the property, according to DeRousie.
“Lawyers are working through that process right now,” DeRousie said. “They have to make sure that everything with the donation of the property is done properly, and that the property will work for us. It takes a long time. I wish I knew when it will be finished. But once everything is settled, we can talk to an architect and start to put together some plans and designs. At that point we can start making a large fundraising push.”
DeRousie said that FWCL members have discussed the possibility of applying for grants, but aren’t sure about placing a bond measure on a future ballot.
“What happened in Camas with the big pool project being voted down was a wake-up call for a lot of people. We wouldn’t want to do something like that. We want to be a positive influence on the community, not a divisive one,” he said. “Some library districts have created tax districts for new buildings, but I’m not sure that’s the way to go either.”
“The FVRL Foundation told us that they will help us write grant proposals, and that’s definitely something that we’ll take a look at,” he continued, “but we’re not confident in (our chances of getting a grant) until we have the property, and actual plans, drawings and designs in hand.”
DeRousie said he “wouldn’t even hazard a guess” as to when construction of the new library might begin.
“We’ll continue to raise money and try to have everything in place to have this done in a reasonable amount of time,” he said.
“There’s been some frustrations because the process hasn’t happened as fast as we’d like,” he continued. “It’s been a slow process. For me personally, there’s been a lot of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. I’ve been encouraged at times and discouraged at times. There were some opportunities that we looked at that didn’t work out. I think this one will work out, though. It’s just a matter of getting our ducks in a row, and I think that’s going to happen. We’ve had to be patient. We’ll be patient a while longer to make sure that Washougal gets the library it deserves and needs.”
For those interested in learning more about the library building efforts, the Friends hold a public meeting from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at Washougal Community Library, 1661 “C” St., Washougal. For more information, visit washougallibraryfriends.org or fvrl.org/imagin ewashougal.