By Diane Madigan
Independent Special Writer
Attorney John Day said he estimates it will be about a year before the Belleville Area District Library Board could bring a decision to the public on a proposed site for a new library.
At the District Library Board’s regular meeting Jan. 8 Day was asked by Randy Brown how close the board was to bringing something to the public.
He gave a lengthy response, ending up with the estimate of a year.
Day said currently there are two sites that are under consideration.
The site in the city is between Charles Street, the alleyway, and Third and Fourth streets, around the present site.
Then, there’s the Department of Natural Resources property on Belleville Lake, just north of the Belleville Bridge, which Day called “a unique site”.
“The Fishery Department of the DNR is very positive about trying to do something in conjunction with the library and do a cooperative development,” he said.
“The problem is the site was originally acquired by the DNR in their recreational trust. A library is not included in their recreational purposes.
“The Fishery Department wants to move forward which involves removing (buying) the title out of the trust. Whether that means the DNR or the district library, we haven’t gotten that far yet,” Day continued.
“The DNR has had the appraisal since November. Hopefully this will be completed in the next week or so. From there we will sit down with the DNR to structure an agreement to remove the property from the trust and move forward to develop some kind of a joint agreement with the fishery department.”
Day said the board also has had broad discussions with Sumpter Township about the satellite facility, as well as Van Buren Township and its Downtown Development Authority.
“Until we get a site hammered down it’s hard to sit down for a substantive conversation,” Day said.
“Hopefully within the next four to six weeks we will be able to schedule a series of meetings to determine if this is a workable deal or not. Ultimately the board will put together a proposal and take it to the voters.
“The Belleville site also has its issues with site acquisition and demolition.
“On both sites, a year is probably a safe estimate,” Day concluded.
Brown then asked if building in phases has been considered. Both Chairman Mary Jane Dawson and board member Christina Brasil said that has been considered but they would still need to purchase enough property to complete the building.
Attorney Day added that the DNR site, if workable, may be a joint operation. The DNR apparently wants the waterfront for fishing on the lake and the library wants to use the uplands. Parking and bathrooms could be shared costs, he said.
During public comment, George Chedraue asked for clarification on the location for the main library. He said the agreement states that if the main library should be located south of Hull Road then a satellite facility could be located north of I-94. He said he understands that to mean that the main library could be in Sumpter Township.
Attorney Day read directly from the agreement: Any new main library building shall be located south of the I-94 freeway either in the Charter Township of Van Buren or in the City of Belleville and the satellite building should be in Sumpter Township. In the event that it is determined that the new main library should be located south of Hull Road, then a satellite facility could be located north of I-94.
Diane Madigan asked if there were any provisions in the agreement for changing the location for the main building.
“It seems like you have been looking for a spot and maybe if there is something north of I-94 you could get together and change the agreement,” she said.
Day said there are provisions for changes but believes at the present time they have not exhausted the possibilities within the agreement.
In other business at the Jan. 8 meeting, CPA Ron Traskos reviewed the Plante Moran audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012.
He said total revenue of $963,391 is down $100,147 or 9.5% from 2011. Total expenses of $893,358 are up $9,958 or 1% over 2011. Revenue was in excess of expenditures, resulting in an increase to the fund balance of $54,762 for a total fund balance of $690,866. Traskos said the expenses were very controlled.
He said the economic factors in the audit report warn that property tax levies are expected to decrease an additional 4.7% or approximately $30,000 for the three communities in 2013.
During the fiscal year the library purchased books and periodicals, made building improvements and purchased computer equipment, raising the new capital assets by $24,742 for a total of $625,029. The full accrual net assets are $1,274,868.
Since this was the first meeting of the year, the board elected officers for one-year terms. Dawson, who has been chairman since the board was formed, remains chairman. Brasil was nominated for reelection to the vice chairman position but declined the nomination and nominated Joseph Monte, who was then elected. Joy Cichewicz remains the secretary and Elaine Gutierrez remains the treasurer.
Gutierrez said she was glad to see that term limits would be discussed with possible bylaw changes.
“Definitely a treasurer should have term limits, no doubt about it. I’ll accept it for this year just to keep things straight, but that’s it.”
“You do a great job and we’re grateful,” said board member Michael Boelter.
Assignments to standing committees were: Finance – Gutierrez, Brasil; Marketing – Boelter, Gutierrez, Juriga; Personnel – Boelter, Monte; Bylaws – Monte, Cichewicz; Policy – Brasil, Monte, Boelter; and Building – Boelter, Juriga, Cichewicz.
The Bylaw Committee presented a draft of changes to the bylaws for board discussion. A very lengthy discussion ensued around term limits for officers.
The wording presented allows for three consecutive one-year terms. Gutierrez was adamant about the need for term limits saying it should not be a long-term position.
Juriga and Dawson spoke against term limits. Cichewicz said she could see it both ways and read a report from the Michigan Library Trustee Manual: Wise boards rotate officers to keep new ideas flowing and to educate members in all aspects.
Attorney Day suggested the need to spell out the length of term limits. He said he worries about cross-training and becoming insufficient in some regard.
“You may want to think about continuity to work on large projects like building and bond issues, negotiating issues with the DNR,” he said. “The idea of institutional memory is important, as it keeps you from making the same mistakes over again.”
Chedraue said he believes that continuity is important and no one is saying that you can’t help each other. Every once in a while there should be new blood and new ideas, he said.
Cichewicz wanted to go on the record: “When we’re talking about term limits, I’m approaching this not as a personal issue, but as a philosophical way to run the library. I think you’ve been a fabulous chair. I just want to say, we do have a good working group and you’ve done a fabulous job.”
No decision on term limits was made and the subject may come back at another time.
It was agreed that the Building Committee should be a standing committee. There were typos and grammar changes made in the proposed bylaw changes, so it will be edited and brought back to the next meeting.
The next regular meeting of the library board is at 7 p.m., Feb. 12, at the library.
By Diane Madigan