Riverside County supervisors Tuesday formally authorized construction of three new library branches at a potential cost of $50 million, marking one of the “biggest investments” in the history of the county library system.

“This is a proud day and moment for me,” said Supervisor Chuck Washington, who first expressed the need for an expansion of the library system more than three years ago.

“We finally got here. I’ve never been more proud about what we’re getting done,” he said. “Some people have told me that libraries are a thing of the past. We have the internet now. Well, we know the internet offers us information, and some not very positive things, too. But libraries always seem to be very positive places.”

On a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Jeff Hewitt away on business, the Board of Supervisors accepted the Economic Development Agency’s proposal for a public-private partnership and a maximum $50 million bond issuance to pay for development of the branches, which will be substantially completed by early 2021, according to the EDA.

The IOUs will be in the form of lease-revenue bonds, circulated at intervals, with varying rates of interest and durations.

“This is a pretty exciting day for the county,” EDA Director Rob Field said. “This is one of the biggest investments the county has made in the library system in a very long time. While other library systems are looking to reduce hours or close branches, we are increasing spending and service hours.”

A 15,000-square-foot branch is envisioned on a 13-acre parcel at Palm Drive and Park Lane in Desert Hot Springs, replacing the 3,527-square-foot repository at 11691 West Drive.

In Menifee, the EDA wants to construct a 20,000-square-foot library on a five-acre parcel at La Piedra and Menifee roads to complement smaller branches at 26001 Briggs Road and 26982 Cherry Hills Road.

The largest of the three facilities will be in French Valley, where a 25,000-square-foot library is planned on an 11-acre parcel at Skyview and Winchester roads. According to Washington, the area currently has no library services for locals.

The board-approved development plan established a partnership with Laguna Hills-based real estate developer Omni West Group Inc.

Omni West has already formed a nonprofit limited liability company, CFP Riverside, specifically for the purpose of assuming obligations tied to construction of the libraries. The bond sales, handled by the California Enterprise Development Authority, will directly support CFP Riverside, offsetting all of its development expenses, according to EDA documents.

CFP Riverside will become proprietor of the three buildings upon completion, and after they’re ready for occupancy, CFP will lease the properties back to the county, and the proceeds from the rentals, paid out of the county budget, will amortize the bonds.

The county will be eligible to take possession of the branches from the LLC at the end of six years, provided there are no outstanding debts, or it can wait for the established 30-year lease terms to expire, after which all of the bonds should be retired, according to Field.

He said once the buildings are erected, the county will have 38 library branches.

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