Starting in March the Belleville Area District Library may begin holding its board meetings on the fourth Thursday of the month, instead of the second Tuesday.
The recommended change in meeting day necessitates a change in the bylaws first, which the board plans to vote on at its next meeting, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at the library in Belleville.
On Jan. 11, the district library board began its first official year since being elected to office by voters of the tri-communities of Belleville, Van Buren, and Sumpter. Voters also approved a .7 mill tax for operations.
The interim board, and then the elected board had been meeting on the second Tuesday of the month, which conflicted with the regular Sumpter Township meeting.
Belleville attorney Barbara Miller who has been attending district library board meetings advocating transparency had urged the board to change its meeting date since Sumpter residents, who pay taxes to both the township and the library, could not attend both their township meetings and their library meetings when held at the same time.
“We’re not in conflict with municipalities on the last (fourth) Thursday of the month,” said John Juriga in making the motion, which was seconded by Treasurer Elaine Gutierrez and passed unanimously.
Juriga also noted the local reporter could attend the meetings, as well, with the meeting conflict removed.
“I’d like to see the meetings held so as many people as possible can attend,” said chairman Mary Jane Dawson.
At its two-hour meeting Jan. 11, the board also:
• Re-elected Mary Jane Dawson as chairman and Elaine Gutierrez, as treasurer for 2011. Joy Cichewicz was elected secretary and Christina Brasil, vice chairman;
• Hired two attorneys: Anne Seurynck of Foster Swift Collins and Smith PC as a library law specialist at $190 per hour and John Day, Belleville attorney who has been board attorney since the beginning, at $125 per hour for local issues. (Both hourly; no retainer.) Gutierrez questioned whether Day had a conflict of interest since he is Belleville city attorney and the city is the library’s landlord. Miller pointed out Day also represents the city police who could come to the library with a search warrant. Gutierrez said the library board should be independent of all three municipalities. She said she had talked to a lot of people – both lay people and attorneys — who agree the board should be independent: “We need to clean up our act and become independent of the municipalities, become independent of the city,” Gutierrez said, adding the library board also is looking for another entity, other than the city, to handle its finances. Juriga said at a joint meeting of the three planning commissions a few years ago, all three agreed Belleville will be their downtown. “I think it’s like beating a dead horse,” Dawson said of the conflict remarks and Cichewicz added, “To slap the city in the face, to say we don’t want you any more, bad, bad municipality. We don’t want to do that”;
• Heard Gutierrez comment that as treasurer she was not aware the City of Belleville was charging administrative fees on the library’s money and just withholding the fees, rather than billing the library and being paid. She said from now on anything will have to be billed;
• Heard Gutierrez report that the Finance Committee has a goal of approving a new accounting/payroll system by June. Cichewicz also is on that committee. Committees that had no reports were: Marketing – Mike Boelter and Gutierrez; Personnel – Boelter, Brasil, and Joe Monte; Policy – Monte, Brasil, Juriga; and Building – Cichewicz, Boelter, Juriga;
• Approved paying the monthly administrative fee to the city of $833.33, retroactive from July through December, and to pay the balance of the $10,000 yearly fee ($5,000.02) in January from the pooled account. Gutierrez said the library never got an invoice for the $833.33. She said now the city will put their money into a Chase account and there will be no more withdrawing. She said the library still would like the city to mow the grass and plow the snow, but to send a bill;
• Approved a list of 15 days the library will be closed for holidays in 2011: New Year’s Day, MLK Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Strawberry Festival (Friday and Saturday), July 4, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving (two days), Christmas (two days), New Year’s Eve day and Monday, Jan. 2, 2012;
• Heard Tony D’Onofrio ask from the audience about the library’s weak wireless signal and about offering wireless printing. “Our wireless stinks,” said D’Onofrio, who has been elected president of the Friends of the Library;
• Heard Barbara Miller comment from the audience that the new library law attorney Anne Seurynck inspires confidence and, “knows what you need to know.” She added that Seurynck stated she would withdraw and represent neither side of an issue if there was a conflict of interest. Miller said she has been going around the community getting people to come to the meetings because the board will be spending millions of dollars on a new library and the public needs to be aware and involved; and
• In response to Miller’s question on whether there are any building plans, heard Cichewicz say there were some concept drawings made several years ago before the district library existed. Building planning stopped when the board decided to go to the voters just for the operating funds, which were approved last fall. Cichewicz said the board has got to start talking about what its first steps will be for a new library.