The Fresno County Grand Jury came knocking, wondering when the new Clovis library would open.
In its report on the Fresno County library system this week, the Grand Jury recommended that the library market itself better and said that the Board of Supervisors pay more attention to library operations. But, no misspending of public funds or other malfeasance was found.
The 19-member civil Grand Jury issues several reports a year examining the operation of government. Members are appointed by Fresno County Superior Court.
Why the Clovis Library Hasn’t Opened Yet
As to the Clovis library — slated to be built at Landmark Square on 3rd Street and Veterans Parkway — cleaning up contaminated soil delayed the project. The initial estimate was a 23-month build for a June 2022 opening.
The report said the library outgrew its 8,600 square-foot building — which opened on America’s bicentennial, July 4, 1976 — years ago. The city of Clovis plans to move the library, swapping land with the county to make it happen. A county spokeswoman said negotiations are ongoing.
Progress stopped in March 2021 because of the discovery of soiled soil. The state did not give clearance until January 2023. Work is well underway with several of the buildings already constructed.
“Tentatively, staff anticipates design/build bid solicitation to occur in the third or fourth quarter of 2023, and project completion by the third or fourth quarter of 2025. Please note that these dates are tentative and subject to change,” county spokeswoman Sonja Dosti said.
The county anticipates spending $19.8 million to build the 27,000-square-foot library.
The Grand Jury report didn’t even mention the pandemic and global supply shortage as reasons for the delay.
Other Report Findings
The Grand Jury examined how Measure B, the 0.125% sales tax, was being spent. First passed by voters in 1998, it has been renewed twice. The tax runs through 2029.
A renovated Fig Garden library opened earlier this year; Reedley, Clovis, and Highway City are awaiting new buildings.
The Grand Jury recommended the library system increase public awareness of the programs it offers. The public, the report said, is generally aware that the library is a place for books, and maybe computers.
“The Grand Jury finds that some information and graphics about what Measure B has added to the (Fresno County Free Library) has not been updated for several years. The FCFL should budget funds for and engage the services of professional public relations and media consultants,” the report said.
The report also suggested the Board of Supervisors provide the citizen board that oversees Measure B “a list of expectations” on how to spend the money.
Several recommendations called for the library to shore up its operational plan with more “measurable metrics.”
Library, City Respond
The library issued this response to GV Wire:
“(Fresno County Public Library) wants to thank the Grand Jury for its thorough review of FCPL services, programs, resources, and budget needs. We are reviewing the Jury’s findings and recommendations and will issue a formal response by June 12, 2023, but in general, we are pleased to say that not only do we agree with many of the needs presented in the report, but we have already begun addressing the outlined challenges. We hope that the Jury’s findings will help bring awareness to the numerous valuable Library resources recognized by the Jury and the areas where additional and ongoing public funding will help elevate the Library’s buildings, staffing, and technology to meet the needs of 21st-century community challenges.”
A Clovis spokesman said the city “appreciates” the support of the Board of Supervisors and the library.
“(The library) will be a wonderful location where residents of all ages can spend time learning and recreating near Old Town Clovis. The new Transit Center will allow for convenient, free transportation for the many Clovis and Fresno County residents who will use these facilities,” city spokesman Chad McCollum said.