By Rosemary K. Otzman
Three members of the Belleville Area District Library Board were present at the Feb. 25 meeting of the Sumpter Township Board of Trustees to show them a proposal to turn part of the community center into a satellite library.
Present were Library Board president Mary Jane Dawson, Building Committee chairwoman Joy Cichewicz, and Building Committee member Michael Boelter. Chichewicz and Boelter live in Sumpter.
The proposal is in keeping with the District Library Agreement signed by Sumpter, Van Buren, and Belleville, that stipulates if a new library building is constructed north of Hull Road, Sumpter Township would have to provide a site for a branch library.
The library board has selected the Department of Natural Resources property on the lake just north of the Belleville Bridge as a construction site, so Sumpter has to provide a satellite library site.
This is all contingent on if voters in the library district approve a bond issue and operating millage in the August primary election. The cost is yet to be determined and the ballot language is yet to be written.
Sumpter Township attorney Rob Young explained that the previous Friday he and Sumpter Trustee Alan Bates met with Dawson, Cichewicz, and Boelter, along with the library’s attorney John Day, talking about how the satellite would be put together in Sumpter.
Based on the initial discussion, Young said, the allocation of funds for the project would clearly exceed the $200,000 amount in the agreement.
“You can have an opinion … but voters will decide … they could turn it down and the library board would have to go back to the drawing board,” Young said.
Young said it was important for Sumpter to have a committed plan, so it could go into effect if the millage passes.
“If it doesn’t pass, this is all for naught,” Young said.
Young said he thought rather than just a few talking about it, they should come talk to the board to tell their plans.
“When you walk into the voting booth,” Young said, “You want to have information to base your vote on.”
Cichewicz spoke for the library group, saying the plan that was held up before the meeting was based on recent conversations with Trustee Bates and attorney Young, and previous conversations with Supervisor Johnny Vawters.
The satellite library would be put in the classrooms at the community center formerly occupied by Head Start, plus an additional classroom across the hall.
“I think this is a wonderful location for a library,” Cichewicz began, noting a lot of libraries are now being put in strip malls and former schools. She said they are more likely to be used if they are in busy areas and sharing the facility will save costs.
She said the committee is trying to cost things out to prepare for a bond and they will come back to the board over the summer as plans progress.
She pointed out 24/7 pickup lockers at the building’s entry that would allow people to pick up material after hours. She pointed out a big screen TV for a monitor to the computer classes they will have.
She said although the 3,600 square feet planned is below the 4,303 recommended square footage that their consultant Anders Dahlgren gave in 2012, “We will put more in the space.”
She said the building already has air conditioning and bathrooms, so that would be shared with the library and the library would pay its share.
She said the library will be open from 25 to 32 hours a week and they have to figure out when it will be used.
A fact sheet was passed out that showed the library plans to have 16,000 items (books, DVDs, CDs, magazines), 22 computers (18 public, two staff, teaching area), 36 reader seats, and special use space, totaling about 3,600 square feet.
Trustee Bill Hamm asked about the parking and said they close off the back parking in the spring because of the septic systems. For special events, parking is jammed, he said.
Cichewicz said she has been driving by the community center at different times to check on it and the parking lot never looked full to her. She suggested the library wouldn’t be open when there are special events.
Trustee Bates said the library will take care of its portion of the utilities and they will work out a maintenance agreement.
When asked, Clerk Clarence Hoffman said that Head Start paid $17,000 a year to use that space and that was just rent.
Attorney Young said the rent and reimbursement of utilities was put together by the library architect, “With a lot of input from the board,” Cichewicz added.
“Nobody’s asking you to approve anything tonight,” Young said. “It’s not the township’s project.”
Trustee Peggy Morgan stated, “There is no Plan B or other option.”
“Not yet,” said Cichewicz.
She said they looked at a portion of the medical center property to build on after the medical center was found inappropriate.
She said Vawters suggested the community center since Head Start left.
Cichewicz said they are planning $900,000 to $1 million of improvements to the community center, larger than the $200,000 in the Agreement. She said it would cost two or three times that to build.
“The architect would want me to qualify, qualify, qualify,” Cichewicz said.
She said Vawters was interested that te library was going to put in a lot of technology.
“Whisler is the one who’s pushing this project,” said Mary Ban from the audience, referring to library architect Dan Whisler.
Ban wanted to know how much the project will cost to the taxpayers.
Cichewicz said the library board is looking at the figures and has until April to figure it out.
Ban said people she has talked to are shocked that the library wants to leave the present site. She said the school board quickly knocked Elwell School down because the library wasn’t satisfied with it.
“The library needs to be kept in downtown Belleville, so Belleville won’t die,” Ban said, adding, “You shouldn’t be appearing here until you have numbers to give us.”
“We need to know how you feel about that plan,” Cichewicz said.
“This is the only way you can sell a library on the water – with a fishing dock,” Ban said. “Mrs. Otzman puts reports in the Independent about your meetings. Nothing has been presented as to construction costs … I have had people laughing at this. People cannot believe that when a safety issue is No. 1, they can’t believe you are putting it on that curve that backs up to the freeway each afternoon.”
“I asked them to come and explain,” Young said.
“People want to know the tax they’ll be asked to pay,” Ban said.
“Everyone will have a chance to vote for this,” Young said.
“You need to keep the people of Sumpter Township informed or you’re defeating your purpose,” said Trustee Morgan.
In other business at the Feb. 25 meeting, the Sumpter Board:
• Approved lease/purchase of two 2014 Ford Police Interceptor SUVs for a cost of $56,616 out of the 2014-15 police budget;
• Approved signing a one-year agreement for storage of camera videos with evidence.com for $3,939.60;
• Approve rescheduling the 2014-15 Community Development Block Grant public hearing for 6 p.m. March 11 because more time was needed for publication under CDBG rules;
• Approved paying warrants of $547,284.30 on a roll-call vote;
• Heard Jason Maciejewski give a presentation on Senior Alliance and its services to the community;
• Learned the children’s Easter Egg Hunt will be put on at noon, Saturday, April 12 at Graham Park;
• Approved a resolution naming Hennessey Engineers as the CDBG coordinator for Sumpter Township;
• Heard a presentation by Police Detective John Toth on how police are working with attorney Young to update the medical marijuana ordinance, with the support of Sumpter marijuana growers. About ten growers were in the audience in support of Det. Toth, who said this had nothing to do with medical marijuana, but was aimed at preventing house fires because the electrical hookups had to be safe and up to code. “We’re in the forefront in what I perceive of doing it properly,” Toth said. Young said he will bring an ordinance draft to an upcoming meeting and the board approved him moving forward with the ordinance.
By Rosemary K. Otzman