By Rosemary K. Otzman
Library architect Dan Whisler gave an illustrated report to Friends of the Belleville Area District Library on Jan. 25 as part of the group’s annual meeting.
Thirty-five members and guests were present for the Friends’ business meeting that preceded Whisler’s talk and 25 stayed to hear about plans for a new 50,000-square-foot library on the DNR/Spencer site just north of the Belleville Bridge in Van Buren Township.
Also, Whisler gave the first public presentation of preliminary plans for a satellite library in Sumpter Township that is part of the District Library Board Agreement signed by officials from the City of Belleville and Van Buren and Sumpter townships.
Under the Agreement, if the main library is built north of Hull Road, Sumpter will get a satellite library. If the main library is built south of Hull, VBT will get the satellite library, under the Agreement.
“Sumpter Township got somewhat of a raw deal,” Whisler said of the library Agreement that states Sumpter would have to provide a building for the satellite.
“If Van Buren Township had the satellite, it didn’t have to provide the building” under the Agreement, Whisler said.
At first, Sumpter wanted to provide for a satellite the former Wayne County Medical Building that it purchased. But it is of modular construction and wasn’t suitable to carry the weight of stacks of books, Whisler said.
He said they contemplated the PNA Hall, but then that was sold to the Moose.
Elwell Elementary School, that was demolished by the school board last summer, was suggested by some Sumpter residents as a site, but the library board considered it too far north to be suitable.
Whisler said the library board has been talking with Sumpter Township officials about using 2,000 square feet of empty space at its community center that was vacated by Head Start.
“We still have to negotiate with the township board,” Whisler said, adding in the Agreement, the district library would spend a minimum of $200,000 to renovate that part of the building.
He said an agreement with Sumpter has to be finalized before the library project cost is finalized, so the ballot language can be voted on April 8 by the library board.
The construction bonds for a new library and an operational millage proposal are expected to be put before voters on the Aug. 5 primary ballot.
The cost of the new library has yet to be announced, but at the last library board meeting it was noted the board is looking at bond proposals from 20 to 25 mills.
On Saturday, Library Director Deb Green said the amount needed for operation of the new building is still being determined, but would be more than 1 mill and less than 2 mills.
To make the former classrooms in the Sumpter community center suitable for a satellite library, Whisler said the wall in between them would have to come down to make one large room.
He said the police department, at the end of the hall, would be walled off, with a door installed for easy emergency access.
Whisler said there is a garden to the east of the library rooms and that wall could be opened up to the garden.
Also, there is a former classroom used as an exercise room, east of the library area, and, “If we can get access to that exercise room, we can have 3,400 square feet of total net space,” Whisler said.
Whisler said there is a small closet next to the hall that has a bunch of exposed pipes wrapped in asbestos.
Sumpter’s community center was once a school building that was abandoned by the Van Buren Public Schools once Sumpter schools were consolidated. Sumpter Township bought the building for $1 and it now houses the senior center, police department, a credit union, and a gymnasium and kitchen.
Whisler also talked about plans for the DNR/Spencer property that he had discussed before at library board meetings.
He said once the bond issue is passed, he can get into the specifics in designing the structure, but the final plans should be pretty close to what he’s showing now.
When asked about the pathway along the water that ends at the eastern end of the site at a fishing site, Whisler said there had been talk of having a gate at the end with a code so members of the subdivision along Harmony Lane could have access to the path, but the general public could not.
“We haven’t had conversations with the association, but if I was in the sub, I would welcome access to the pathway that I could walk to the Belleville Bridge,” Whisler said.
Dale Harrison said at certain times of the afternoon, traffic is backed up all the way to Five Points in the City.
“If the library is here or south or north, the traffic doesn’t necessarily change,” Whisler replied.
“Physically, you can’t get into Belleville now at 4 p.m.,” Harrison said, noting many people avoid Belleville Road in the afternoon.
When pushed about the traffic problem, Whisler said the library will have to follow what the road commission says.
Whisler said the bond will be written so the site is not named so if it has to be changed it could be, but the budget numbers will be cast in stone.
By Rosemary K. Otzman