By Rosemary K. Otzman
The Belleville Area District Library Board has set a special meeting for 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 26, to take action on two items:
1. Operating expenses for the new library so the board can set the amount of the millage required to be put on the ballot in the August primary election; and
2. A resolution on acquisition of the Department of Natural Resources property, as required by the DNR.
The meeting will be in the program room of the library and is open to the public.
At its regular meeting on March 11, the board voted 6-1 to set the bond issue for the proposed library at $19,050,000. That includes $18,757,930 for construction of a 45,000-square-foot library and upgrades for the satellite branch, plus financing fees.
The total debt incurred, including $11,892,300 interest on the bond, would be $30,942,300, as stated by bond consultant Stauder, Barch & Associates.
The estimated interest rate would be 5.25%, but if the interest rates rise the district could be forced to levy a millage over the millage given in the pre-election information, Stauder, Barch stated.
After some discussion, the board decided on a 20-year bond issue that would need 1.08 mill of tax for the first year and 0.96 mill average over the rest of the years.
Board Treasurer Elaine Gutierrez voted against the bond motion saying it was too soon, since they don’t have the rest of the figures for the operational costs.
Library board member Christine Brasil delayed her vote on the motion, saying she thought they should have all the figures first, and then, as the last vote, cast a yes vote with the majority.
Although the board’s timetable calls for it to accept the ballot language at its April 8 regular meeting, the operational figures weren’t ready to present at its March meeting.
Library Director Deb Green said her deputy director, Mary Jo Suchy, has been working on the operational figures and she’s been out sick for a week.
“You need a professional to look at operational costs,” said Mike Renaud from the audience. Renaud worked in finances for Ford Motor Co. before retirement.
“We know what the library costs are to light [the building],” offered architect Dan Whisler.
Director Green said the operational costs are almost 60% personnel.
“Where is your financial analyst?” asked Phillip Miller, who is employed by the City of Oak Park as Senior Financial Analyst.
He said the board is looking at building a $20 million facility and paying for it over 20 years and it is important to know what it will cost for the long-term running of the building.
Director Green said right now the library has .7 mill in tax for operation of the present building and she thinks they will add less than 1 mill more for the new building.
She was reluctant to give out any numbers publicly at this point.
When Phillip Miller persisted in saying they should at least have their financial consultant Ron Traskos as part of the operation estimate, Green said, “Mary Jo is better at our numbers than our financial person.” She added that Suchy comes up with the library’s figures before the financial person does.
“If you’ve got money in the bank and we don’t know the numbers at the 12th hour … and you’re driving your own staff to illness…” Phillip Miller said, pushing for them to bring Plante Moran or some similar firm on hand to help.
He was cut short by board president Mary Jane Dawson, who called out, “I think that’s uncalled for…”
Phillip Miller insisted that when it’s at the 12th hour and you need the numbers, you need help.
Building Committee chairwoman Joy Cichewicz asked Green when they will have the numbers.
Green said in two weeks they can have the figures. She said the operating costs will be based on the plan of service. She checked on the meeting room’s availability and then asked for the special meeting.
In another matter, board attorney John Day passed out draft copies of a resolution required by the DNR on acquisition of the property, saying he was not asking for a vote on it that evening.
He suggested board members go over the draft and see if they agree with the terms. He referred to the Sept. 9 Land Exchange Review Committee (LERC) letter that requires the library to construct the fishing site.
Day said the library will agreed to picking up the trash and cutting the grass, “But they cannot use library bond funds for the fishing facility on the site.”
He said the DNR now is working on getting a grant for the fishing area.
The paperwork Day presented to the board at the meeting included information that the DNR requires the library to pay the same amount the DNR paid for the 3.02 acres of property.
That would be the $395,000 price the DNR paid to Roy and Janet Stabnau for the site on July 29, 1986. The DNR also requires a 10% transaction fee.
The three-page draft resolution, “To Approve Purchase and Terms for Acquisition of the DNR Property,” contained the following wording that brought some discussion:
“… the Belleville Area District Library has agreed to provide routine maintenance of fishing access and improvements in conjunction with maintenance of the Library property, but capital improvements and the ownership of the fishing improvements will remain with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, as required by item two…”
This referred to Exhibit A, the LERC letter, which said, “2. The Library will maintain the fishing access improvements in concert with the maintenance of the library facilities.”
There were questions about what “improvements” to the fishing area meant.
But Treasurer Gutierrez was more interested in the legal aspects of the property acquisition.
“Where is there something [a document] to buy the property, with figures and signature?” she asked.
Day referred to the LERC letter, saying the library is following the DNR procedures.
“But there are no signatures,” Gutierrez said.
“Have you ever purchased DNR land?” Day asked.
“Everything follows contract law,” Gutierrez said of her real estate training. “Nothing binds us.”
Day said this is not the same as private property and this is the DNR’s procedure the library has to follow for selling trust property.
Dawson said this resolution is in response to the LERC letter.
“They require this board to send the resolution,” Day said, adding he had to wait until they knew the bond amount and now they do.
“We’re spending all this money and time and we have no commitment,” Gutierrez insisted.
When Phillip Miller questioned the wording of the resolution, Day said, “I don’t care what it says in the LERC letter, we will not pay for fishing … They’ve wanted handicapped fishing for 30 years and now they get it.”
“It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen, said Barbara Miller, an attorney.
“They own the facility. They are responsible for capital improvements,” Day said of the DNR fishing area.
Day said the DNR said, in effect, “You guys go get your bond and then we’ll talk. Now they are seeking a grant for $300,000 for the fishing area. They have told us for two years, ‘We want this project done.’ We had discussed the plan.”
Dawson added quickly that they had discussed plans with a lot of property owners.
Day said the DNR can reject their resolution and the library has to work with their procedures.
“We needed a plan and budget and now we have it,” Day said.
“We could get a bond, but there is no agreement,” Gutierrez insisted. “There is no agreement. In contract law you need it in writing, signatures from buyer and seller, title, default. ‘Other conditions.’ That’s what this is.
“I’m going to call a real estate attorney,” Gutierrez said.
Cichewicz said, “This is land in a trust,” but Gutierrez insisted, “We need something final.”
Later Gutierrez explained she felt her real estate broker’s license could be in jeopardy if she, as part of the board, took part in an illegal transaction.
Day said after the DNR gets the library’s resolution, the DNR will set a public hearing. Day said the library’s application, the LERC letter and the draft resolution don’t mesh, but he’s been dealing with eight different people at the DNR.
By Rosemary K. Otzman