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story.lead_photo.caption The interior of the library space is shown during a tour with members of the Daniel Boone Regional Library Board of Trustees earlier this year.

The plans for bringing a library to Holts Summit took a big step forward Thursday night after the Daniel Boone Regional Library accepted a letter of intent from the Holts Summit Community Empowerment Foundation to open a branch at a recently renovated space in Summit Plaza.

Margaret Conroy, DBRL executive director, said a new library is not a guarantee, but it is very likely. The only step remaining to be finalized is a lease agreement for the first two years.

Assuming a deal is reached, Conroy said the library would likely open by January, with November or December also being possible.

"I mean, you just made history," DBRL Associate Director Elinor Barrett told the Board of Trustees. "You're going to change the lives of an entire town, and that seems so simple here at the table but it's huge."

Marty Wilson, of Holts Summit Community Empowerment Foundation, which has led the effort to bring a library to Holts Summit, said he is "ecstatic" and believes creating a lease agreement will go smoothly.

The Holts Summit Community Empowerment Foundation, which funded a complete renovation of the space on Summit Plaza using a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan through the Callaway Chamber of Commerce, said in the letter of intent that rent for the space will be waived for the first two years.

In the letter, the foundation said the space was 6,700 square feet, and rent would be $5,000 per month if not waived, making the value of rent to be waived $120,000 for the two years.

Conroy said without the rent being waived, it would not have been possible for DBRL to pay for the library.

"Daniel Boone and the Callaway County of Trustees have long wanted to increase our service level in Holts Summit, but we have just been limited by our tax income," Conroy said. "We had not actually budgeted for service in Holts Summit prior to this offer, so when the offer came to us of a space — that the rent would be covered for two years — we took a really hard look at our budget and our reserves to try and see what we could do."

Once the Callaway County Library District accepted the letter of intent, the DBRL Board of Trustees also passed a budget amendment to be used for a new library if it becomes official.

Jim Smith, chief financial officer of DBRL, said the amendment included providing as much as $45,000 for library materials and up to $72,000 for equipment.

Part of the funding may also come from a foundation for DBRL, Smith added, in which there is a fund founded specifically for improving library services in Callaway County.

Conroy said DBRL will not be adding to employee hours, instead using hours budgeted, but unused, in Fulton for a Holts Summit library.

In the beginning, the library would only be open for 20 hours a week, Conroy said. DBRL understands people will likely want more, she added, but that is how much is possible now. More hours could potentially be added.

Conroy said for the first two years, DBRL will be "scraping pennies" together to fund a library in Holts Summit.

"This is not a sustainable effort without a tax increase, and so the (members of the Callaway library board) have agreed we will target putting a tax levy increase in Callaway County on the ballot in April 2020," Conroy said she told the Board of Trustees.

She said, as of now, about 38 percent of tax income for DBRL in Callaway comes from the southern portion of the county. However, 98 percent of the services go to Fulton, she added, making it important to improve service in Holts Summit.

"The people in Holts Summit are not being well served for their tax dollars," Conroy added.

Matt Harline, city administrator of Holts Summit, said the city backed to original USDA loan to pay for the renovation and it would promote the use of the potential library.

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