By Rosemary K. Otzman
It took about three hours of discussion before the Belleville Area District Board agreed the floor plan they liked best of all for the proposed new library was option C1, the same one the architect pushed for all evening.
Architect Dan Whisler had provided options A, B, and C at the December meeting and came up with his favorite, C1, for the Building Committee meeting Dec. 30 and the regular board meeting on Jan. 14.
After hours of discussion at the regular board meeting, just before 10 p.m., Board Chairwoman Mary Jane Dawson said, “If I had to tell you which one I would like you to build tomorrow, I’d pick C1,” and Whisler replied, with relief, “OK.”
“One more thing,” Whisler said, pulling out yet another drawing, this time of the possible outside look of the building.
He had designed a clerestory that let in the natural light, a dome on top, and a butterfly roof. He said these are possibilities.
In other business at the Jan. 14 meeting, the board:
• Decided the Building Committee should look into who to hire for bond counsel and discuss it at their Jan. 23 or Feb. 4 meetings in order to make a recommendation to the full board for its Feb. 11 meeting. Architect Whisler said, “My instinct is you can’t go by your February meeting” to make the decision. A 7 p.m., Jan. 28 special board meeting was set to consider the committee’s bond counsel recommendation;
• Discussed an agenda item “Consideration to Videotape Meetings in 2014,” suggested many times over the years by resident Barbara Miller. Chairman Dawson listed all the reasons it isn’t being done. Board members Christina Brasil and Joseph Monte volunteered to look into the issue and talk to school students about them possibly helping with the project;
• Agreed to ask financial consultant Ron Traskos to come to the next meeting to discuss the budget audit which they just obtained. In December Traskos said about $65,000 has been spent to date for the new building project. This money is to be recouped by the bond and go back into the library’s operating budget;
• Approved a $40,640 contract for architectural services from Whisler and the landscape architect for fees per base tasks;
• Heard board member John Juriga report he is getting bids to repair the leaks in the library building roof that have swamped the offices and caused the ceilings to fall in;
• Heard Whisler give a lengthy report on his ongoing design changes, saying they have to develop a strategy of design and then develop a budget to see if people will support it. He said he has talked with VBT Director of Planning and Economic Development and found no big issues with the library’s plans. “I’m feeling much better based on our meeting today,” Whisler said of the session with Mullen;
• Heard Bernard Grant, an architect who lives in VBT, ask about the cost of the building. Whisler and board members were reluctant to give a figure, saying that would come in April. “I gave a range once and I was skewered for it,” Whisler said. “I won’t go there again.” Building committee chairwoman Joy Cichewicz finally conceded that the board has been looking at bonds in the area of $15 to $20 million. Whisler said if the cost determined is too high for the voters in August, they could try again at the November election;
• Heard Grant ask Whisler how long he has been working on this project and Whisler replied he has been working with the library board since 2005;
• Heard Whisler suggest meeting with the neighbors next door to the Spencer property, who will be next-door neighbors to the new library, in an effort to “be neighborly”;
• Heard Whisler say the café planned for the proposed library could end up being vending machines;
• Heard Whisler report they are working to set up another conversation with the DNR on grants. There is an April 1 application deadline for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, but to qualify the project needs to be a part of the VBT Recreation Master Plan, unless the state can override the township; and
• Heard board attorney John Day report that the library site is not to be fully funded by the bond since the DNR has to find funding for the fishing area. “We told the DNR from Day 1 we are not building fishing piers,” Day said, adding the library is getting the concept together and then going out and pitching it. He said the library and the DNR are partners in the joint operation. The state encourages intergovernmental cooperation and this will be two or three levels of government. He said the Belleville and VBT Downtown Development Authorities are interested in helping.
By Rosemary K. Otzman