Library-campus concept praised

PATTERSON -- City leaders hailed a proposal to build a joint public library and Modesto Junior College campus as an "exciting and innovative concept" that would provide regional benefits to the West Side.

They agreed Tuesday to move forward with discussions with the Yosemite Community College District to construct a 30,000-square-foot, $10 million facility on city-owned land. The building would serve as an interim MJC campus and public library run by Stanislaus County.

Preliminary plans call for the YCCD to pay all or most of the cost of the building, which then would be leased back by the city or Stanislaus County. The college would move out of the facility after it had enough enrollment and funds for a larger West Side campus.

MJC offers a limited number of classes in a center next to Patterson High School.

Some council members expressed concern about having three entities working on the project, but agreed that the benefits outweigh potential conflicts.

"Whenever you have multijurisdictions owning a venue, there will be complications. I want to give all my support to the project, but that might pop up," Councilman Dominic Farhina said.

The proposed facility would be at the city's community center complex at Las Palmas and Ward avenues. The building likely would be divided into 20,000 square feet of classroom space for MJC and the rest for a public library, City Manager Cleve Morris said.

That would be nearly double the city's current 5,600-square-foot library. If MJC were ready to move out of the building, the county would take over the full space and create a regional library that would serve the West Side.

"I've long awaited us getting a bigger facility," Councilwoman Annette Smith said. "This is going to bring it about sooner." Morris said the proposal fits into the county's master plan for a regional library.

"The county is very interested, we are very interested and the college is very interested," Morris said.

YCCD officials have $326 million in Measure E school bonds to build satellite campuses throughout the region, $5 million of which is set aside for Patterson.

Patterson Planning Commissioner Luis Molina told the council to stay on top of negotiations to ensure that the county contributes money to the project and the college district doesn't allow the $5 million to "evaporate" when it is time to move to a larger campus.

"We as a community need to be the squeaky wheel and let them know how interested we are in educational opportunities," he said.

If an agreement is reached between the entities, the college district could break ground on the facility within the next few years.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.