Southeast Library Coming by Anne Gibson

The desire for a Pima County Library, serving the Greater Vail Area, has long been sought after. Perseverance from the community working with Pima County officials is about to pay off. The vision began six years ago when the Vail Community Action Board held a town hall in the dining theater at Cienega High School. Over 250 residents attended with the charge on defining the needs of the greater Vail area. A public library was the number one priority.

A Pima County 25-member citizens committee called for a bond election on November 3, 2015. On the bond were seven questions. Proposition 426.11 was the Vail area Southeast Branch Library to be funded in the amount of $6 million. The library was to be located with a YMCA facility also on the bond to be located on Rita Road at the U of A Tech Park. Voters did not approve the seven ballot propositions.

In 2016, Pima County Library Executive Director Melinda Cervantes, then Pima County Library Foundation Executive Director Ann Eve Cunningham, and Deputy Library Director Amber Mathewson met with several residents of the greater Vail area.  They shared that in working with the Pima Country Manager, Chuck Huckelberry, they believed that $3.5 million had been identified from previous projects that had come in under budget. They estimated the $3.5 million could build a 5,000 square foot library.

Upon the resignation of Melinda Cervantes, Deputy Amber Mathewson became Interim Pima County Library Executive Director. Her first action was to form a local steering committee for the project with Corona resident and member of the Pima County Library Advisory Board, Edward Buster co-chairing with Vail resident and Vail Unified School District Director of College and Career Readiness, Ethan Hurley. Members-at-large include Dr. Linda Arzoumanian, Mary Ann Cleveland, Anne Gibson, Kristina Knauer, Carrie Morris, Allison Pratt and Raquel Goodrich.

“County Administrator Huckelberry and I, in working with county staff, have increased the proposed amount of funding to $4.5 million, which will increase the size of the library,” Interim Executive Director Amber Mathewson told the steering committee.

In order to contain infrastructure cost, the library is being moved from the U of A Tech Park to county-owned land on Mary Ann Cleveland Way designated to be Esmond Station Regional Park and next to Empire High School.  “Building the library will be the real key to developing and drawing people to the Esmond Station Regional Park,” said County Manager Huckelberry. “The new location is advantageous, not only financially, but is more centrally located. It is in walking distance for all ages from two schools, two major residential developments, and on a major roadway,” said Co-Chair Ethan Hurley.

The library is currently in the infrastructure phase. The design phase will be from 2017 to 2018. Construction will begin in 2018 through 2019 with a grand opening celebration planned for 2020. “The greater Vail community has grown rapidly and is prime for its own distinct and dedicated library,” said Co-Chair Edward Buster as he noted the Southeast Library is a partnership between the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Pima County Staff and the greater Vail community.

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