EL CERRITO -- With redevelopment funds in limbo, a citizens' group making plans for a new city library sees a bond issue as the most logical funding alternative to raise the $15 million to $25 million that will be needed for site acquisition and construction.

The city's existing library was built about 60 years ago and it's about half the size that would be ideal for El Cerrito, a city of about 23,500, said former City Manager Gary Pokorny, a member of the citizens' committee.

"We're saying it's time for the library to become a high priority and we think there's a high probability of passage if we take a bond measure to the voters," Pokorny said. "That may well be a strategy (the City Council) would want to pursue."

The eight-member group has investigated libraries built and renovated recently in Hercules, Lafayette, Orinda, Walnut Creek, Albany and Berkeley and identified features that a new El Cerrito library should have, Pokorny said.

"There are a number of new libraries around the county," he said. "We're trying to make people aware of what's possible."

A new building should include a larger meeting space and larger spaces devoted to events for children and teenagers, such as story hours and group research projects, he said.

"(Dedicated space for) upper elementary and middle schoolers would allow them to make a little bit of noise without disturbing the rest of the library's activities," Pokorny said. "Right now it all spills out into the rest of the library."

There is also a need for more and better electrical connections for laptops and more space to set them up, he said.

The group also has determined that a coffee shop with food service would also be an attraction.

"Lafayette, Orinda and Walnut Creek have coffee shops in or near their libraries," Pokorny said.

The current library's site, which adjoins the BART tracks at 6510 Stockton St., is too small for a new facility that should be about twice the size of the current building, he said.

The group has targeted a couple of other sites, including city-owned land on San Pablo Avenue north of the new City Hall that formerly housed a temporary city hall and the site of the old Portola Middle School, that is owned by the West Contra Costa school district.

"The Portola site could be an activity center with the library, along with the community center and swim center that are already there," Pokorny said.

Mayor Greg Lyman agreed that a bond issue would be the best way to pay for a new library, possibly supplemented by state or county grants.

"There are funding alternatives (to a bond issue), but I doubt they would cover the majority of the structure," Lyman said. "Without redevelopment, a bond issue is the most logical funding method."

A new library will be part of a final strategic plan now being developed by the city, he said. The City Council will hear a progress report on the strategic plan at its Jan. 26 meeting.

The website for the new library effort is at www.newelcerritolibrary.org.

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