By Rosemary K. Otzman
At the beginning of the Nov. 18 Belleville Area District Library board meeting, Barbara Miller asked board president Mary Jane Dawson about taping the library board meetings.
Miller, who has been attending the board meetings for years, regularly asks the board to tape the meetings, so those who cannot attend can watch them on their local cable TV stations.
“Will the library put taping the meetings on the agenda and vote on it?” Miller asked Dawson and Dawson replied, “We did that.”
“I’m like a Republican that keeps talking about Obamacare,” Miller joked. She is an active Democrat.
“I would be happy to do that if a motion is made,” Dawson said.
No motions were made.
Bernard Grant, who made an unsuccessful run for a seat on the library board in the Nov. 4 election, asked if they could move the official “Public Comment” portion of the meeting from the start of the meeting to the end.
Grant said it’s hard to comment on things before they are discussed and voted on by the board.
Dawson said the public can speak on every agenda item as it comes up.
Since the August primary election where voters turned down millage to build a 45,000-square-foot lakeside library, board members have been meeting with people at the library for Chats to gather information on what they would like to see for their library.
Dawson said she met with the Belleville Area Garden Club and talked to them about what they think a library should have and where it should be located.
Dawson said they thought the library that was proposed was too large and out of place. She said half thought it should stay in Belleville and half liked the DNR property. They bemoaned the fact that Belleville is not what it was 40 years ago and they were concerned about the tax payments for the high school that was built and the looming problem with Visteon bonds.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say that was the general opinion of the garden club,” said Kathleen Walsh, pointing out that special meeting was held during the daytime and some of the members work.
Dawson told of other people she talked to and what they thought about the library and its services.
Joy Cichewicz said two-thirds of the people she talked to wanted the library in the central area of the district and the other third wanted the DNR site.
There were a lot of people who said there was no need for a café in the library.
Cichewicz said two people from Sumpter said they didn’t think Sumpter needed a library. She added that two people said they thought, “Libraries are just for poor people.”
Newly elected board member Sharon Peters said, “We need help from people” to get their opinions. “Some read the paper and some don’t,” she said, adding some said they didn’t know there was an August ballot question on the library.
LaChelle Reed Caver, also newly elected to the board, said she spoke to a lot of people in Sumpter while campaigning. “A lot of people did not like the concept of the satellite there. The seniors felt disrespected.”
Phillip Miller said he got a call from a supporter in Sumpter and of 50 talked to only one supported a library in the space proposed. He said the seniors didn’t want to give up their space in the community center to hold a library.
“There was a feeling that the way the library board approached the township board was, ‘This is where we’re going to put it’ instead of having the township come up with a place,” Miller said.
The library agreement that includes a satellite library can be amended by the three communities involved, “But it would be another huge process,” said board member Joe Monte.
“Maybe down the line they’ll find the satellite is not necessary,” suggested Grant, an architect.
Mary Ban of Sumpter said she asked the township attorney if the library agreement is null and void because of certain things that weren’t done. “Dates and times are not completely met, in my opinion,” Ban said. She said the attorney has yet to get back to her.
Board member Elaine Gutierrez said they need to look at the library agreement. “It needs to be revisited, but not tonight,” she said.
Walsh, a retired trust attorney, asked the definition of a library and Dawson said, “That depends.”
Walsh said her neighbors on Harmony Lane see the library that was proposed as a large, glass-face building with a café, when they think it should be a building with books. She said well-educated professionals don’t go to the library. They order their books.
“You’ve said, ‘We need a building.’ You need to say what it is to be used for,” she said.
“Maybe you tried to do too much,” suggested Tonya Stoudemire, another newly elected board member.
Phillip Miller said the book marks that were being given out before the election had a statement in the corner that said, “So much more for everyone.” Then, that corner of the bookmark was blacked out to hide that statement.
Library Director Deb Green said the bond attorney said that statement was more than information and needed to be removed.
The Friends of the Library, who paid for the bookmarks, didn’t want to waste their money by throwing out the bookmarks, so they blacked out the offending verbiage.
The main topic of the Nov. 18 meeting was the final draft of the public survey put together by board secretary Cichewicz. The survey, which can be completed in 10-15 minutes on the internet, was projected onto a screen in the meeting room, as she went through her questions.
Phil Miller, who has experience with putting together surveys, offered to run the computer, while she stepped back and explained questions to the board and the dozen people in the audience. He gave her suggestions on what to have on the survey and everyone looked for typos.
The board plans to disseminate the survey in many ways and will try to get as many people as possible to fill it out. It’s expected to go out in December.
The deadline for completed surveys is March 31 and Cichewicz will present the results to the board at its April 14 meeting.
The survey hopes to get information from the public that will give direction to the library board on what to do about the district’s library needs.
Board member John Juriga said the library needs 22 new windows and the lowest price so far is from Wallside Windows for $8,290. He has to get one more quote before he has the necessary three required. He said when the fascia is being done they were afraid the old single-pane windows would break.
By Rosemary K. Otzman