Marana and Pima County have struck an innovative financing agreement that will bring a $3 million library to Continental Ranch in 2004.

Under terms of the agreement approved by the Marana Town Council Nov. 5 and the Pima County Board of Supervisors Oct. 29, the town will advance the money for the construction of the library and will be repaid by the county with tax proceeds from the Pima County Free Library District.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bronson said the Continental Ranch library had not been part of the county library district's long-range building plans, but she threw her support behind the project when she was presented with the financing scheme that has Marana forgoing about $1 million in interest on the money it will advance for the project.

"It was not part of the library district's plan, and it really needed to be," Bronson said."

Marana will be reimbursed for its $3 million interest-free outlay by the county library district over a 10-year period.

Pima County will have approval over the library's design and construction, which will be coordinated by Marana. After the building is completed and stocked with books and equipment, the library will be turned over to the county's control.

Marana Town Manager Mike Hein said the financing agreement worked in each jurisdiction's favor and helped bring about a library where both sides agreed there was a need.

"There wasn't a corpus of money lying around with the library district, so the basic element of the deal that we worked out with Chairwoman Bronson was that if we front the money, they pay us back and we abate the interest," Hein said. "We have the ability to do this from a financial point, and we wanted to see it move forward."

The 15,000-square foot-library will be built on land owned by Marana adjacent to a 48.8-acre district park being constructed near Silverbell and Cortaro roads.

The library is expected to have at least 50,000 volumes of material and be open 58 hours per week.

Hein said the agreement differed from one struck between the county and Oro Valley. Oro Valley's library, which was funded from $2 million in county bonds and $3 million from the town, was turned over to the town's control after its opening in August.

"Oro Valley, from a policy standpoint, was demanding that they control the staffing and operation. Our deal is a little different. We're not as adamant that Marana control the library. We think that it's appropriate for the broader district to control the operation," Hein said.

The need for the library in the fast-growing Continental Ranch area was evident, Bronson said.

"It's clear that the growth is occurring in the Northwest, and it's clear that Marana has experienced growth and needed a library and it was just a matter of getting everybody together on this," she said.

The only branch of the City of Tucson-Pima County library system located in the town is located at 13370 N. Lon Adams Road in rural north Marana, about 10 miles from Continental Ranch.

The closest branch to Continental Ranch is the Nanini Library at 7300 N. Shannon Road in Casas Adobes. The Nanini branch, which the county had identified as being the busiest library in the joint Tucson-Pima system, is five miles east of Continental Ranch.

Hein said the idea for a library came from a casual comment a citizen made during a break at a Marana Town Council meeting.

"The seed came about a couple of years ago when there had been a lull at one of our council meetings. We had been talking about how institutions are important in forming the flavor and culture of a community, and one of the residents suggested we find a way to build a library in Continental Ranch," Hein said.

Members of the Marana Town Council and residents of Continental Ranch agreed, and the town began negotiations with the county to work out a financing scheme.

"The library is a high priority because it's an important institution that's lacking in that area. It gives the community a sense of identity, and I think that libraries throughout history have been an important resource and gathering place for all age groups in a community. It's a pillar in any community," Hein said.

Bronson said the smooth negotiations and the creative financing could lead to similar joint projects in Marana in the future.

She said the county has begun informal discussion with Marana and the Marana Unified School District to work on parks and other projects.

"We have a town and school district that is eager to work with us, and when you have that kind of cooperation it just makes things easy to get done. We've already begun looking at ways to co-locate facilities in the town that we know the community needs by leveraging all of our resources," Bronson said.

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