By Rosemary K. Otzman
On Sept. 10, after another closed-door session that lasted more than an hour, the Belleville Area District Library Board announced five proposed sites for a new library building.
Because a new library needs taxpayer-approved funding to be built, a site needs to be approved, a budget proposed, and legal ballot language approved by April 2014 in order to get it on the August or November 2014 ballot.
The library board will hold a public forum at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 2, in the mini-auditorium at Belleville High School to present the five proposed sites.
There will be no votes at the forum, but the board expects to select a site in open session at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 at the library.
“Between Oct. 8 and April 2014 the library has a lot of work to do,” said library architect Dan Whisler. He said they have to develop a concept for a price, a budget, and present it to the community as a funding referendum. He said it allows the library to proceed and put something before the voters.
The sites to be considered at the Oct. 2 meeting were verbally announced as:
A. The current library site, plus the municipal parking lot across Fourth Street, 144 and 164 Third Street and 330 and 360 Charles Street. At 144 Third is Captain Nemo’s restaurant (owned by Martha Brimble of Grosse Ile) and 164 Third is the home of Robert Hampton. At 330 Charles is Main Street Computers and at 360 Charles is H&B Bookkeeping and Tax Service;
B. The current library site, plus the municipal parking lot across Fourth Street, and 369, 381, 397, and 397a Main. Dr. Herbert Robb of West Bloomfield owns 369 Main, which has offices for Keith Bruder Landscaping and WAY (Widening Advancement for Youth). C. Boelter’s office is at 381 Main and Ibrahim Jawad of Dearborn owns 397 Main, where Country Cleaners is located, and One Stop Hydro Shop in Suite A;
C. The municipal parking lot, the Baptist Church at 189 High, and the Bank One property at 227 High;
D. The Department of Natural Resources property on the lake, just north of the Belleville Bridge, and the Spencer property next door at 11933 Belleville Road; and
E. For the Sumpter Township branch site, 2,000 square feet in the Sumpter Community Center, across from the township hall. This site could grow bigger, said board president Mary Jane Dawson.
President Dawson said the sites will be presented to the public on Oct. 2, but that is not a “decision night” and there will be no voting. There will be a power point presentation with questions from the audience.
Appraisals, options, letters, and other supporting documents on the sites are expected to be assembled by Sept. 27 and will be available for review by the public at the library, said Library Deputy Director Mary Jo Suchy.
“Whatever needs to be available, will be available,” Dawson stated.
“Because three of them [sites A, B, and C] are dependent on the city, before we do anything, the city has to tell us what they’re willing to do,” said Joy Cichewicz, board secretary and chairperson of the building committee.
She referred to the municipal parking lot bordered by Fourth, Charles, and Roys streets, along with the parcel under the present library building, also owned by the city.
“We made a request from the city and we’re waiting for a price,” Dawson said.
And, Suchy said, “We’re waiting for 144 Third,” which is Captain Nemo’s restaurant that previously was exempted from a proposal in that area.
As to the Sumpter branch site, “We’ve had talks with them. That’s an ongoing thing,” Dawson said, noting nothing has come formally before the Sumpter Township Board.
Attorney Barbara Miller asked if it would be a conflict of interest for the library’s attorney John Day to be negotiating with the city on behalf of the library, since he was both the library’s and city’s attorney until fired by the city.
Day said there would be no problem negotiating with the city.
Discussing options on the property, Day said no money has been given for the options on the properties, only an agreement on a purchase price.
“We wouldn’t have funding until a millage has passed,” Day said.
“We have made a request of the city just like we did for all the property owners, for an option and an option price,” Day said. “The city has yet to provide us with an option or an option price.”
“The only thing that is really clear is the DNR site?” asked Miller.
“No, we have options for a number of them,” Day said.
In other business on Sept. 10, the board voted unanimously to levy the voted 0.7 Library Operating Millage on the December 2013 tax bill for taxpayers in the City of Belleville and Van Buren and Sumpter townships, which is expected to bring in $936,633.
Special Writer Diane Madigan contributed to this report.