School Board member Scott Russell asked fellow board members to consider recommending that the new district library building remain inside Belleville’s city limits.
The Belleville Downtown Development Authority, the City Council, and the Central Business Community groups already have passed such recommendations.
At Russell’s request, the subject was placed on the agenda of Monday’s regular board meeting, but his fellow board members were having none of it.
His motion to adopt a formal resolution that the Belleville Area District Library remain in the City of Belleville died for lack of a second.
“We are an educational institution and keeping the library downtown will benefit our students,” Russell stated.
He said there are some 1,700-odd students at the high school and hundreds at South Middle School and numerous elemental children who would benefit with a central location.
He asked fellow board members for their thoughts.
“That is more of a political statement,” said Vice President Brenda McClanahan. “I really think we should stay out of the fray … It’s not germane to the school district.”
“I am hesitant to take a stance,” said Secretary Kevin English. “I would not like to proceed.”
Treasurer Toni Hunt said she supports the library and was president of the Friends of the Library when they were building an addition. She said her brother is on the current district library board.
“I prefer to allow voters to make the decision,” Hunt said, referring to a vote that would have to take place to fund a new library.
Newly sworn-in board member Brent Mikulski, who lives in the Canton area of the school district, said he wouldn’t be able to vote on this library. He said he didn’t know the particulars and would want to hear the debate before casting a vote on a recommendation.
Russell said he feels a recommendation from the board has nothing to do with politics. He said he is concerned that if the library is moved out of the downtown area, the students would have less access to a new, improved library for their education.
He said he’s heard arguments for other sites and they are personally appealing.
“But, I was elected to serve all the students,” Russell said.
Board President Martha Toth asked if anyone in the audience wished to speak on the subject and no one did.
“I don’t feel it is our place to take a stand on this,” Toth said, pointing out that the school district covers a wider area than the district library. The school district includes parts of Ypsilanti and Canton townships, she said.
“I agree that the library board should make the decision. I don’t think it’s our business,” Toth said.
“It’s political, it is,” McClanahan insisted. “I don’t feel we should take a strong stand.”
Russell said since they can’t cut the library into equal pieces and put the pieces equidistant to service the community, he prefers a central location where students will have easy access.
Belleville attorney and former school board member Barbara Miller spoke from the audience, noting she has been attending the library board meetings almost from the beginning. She said the board has yet to make a decision on the site.
Miller said the high school is located in downtown Belleville and, “Obviously, you are not going to move out of downtown.”
She said the school board members are stakeholders and as such they can have an opinion.
Miller said the community they serve would appreciate a thoughtful recommendation.
She suggested they not make a decision now, but investigate the situation for themselves and make a decision later.
“It appears there is no support. I’m prepared to allow this motion to fail,” Russell said.
Toth pointed out there was no second for the motion, so it died for lack of support.
Mikulski asked if the district library board had asked for their opinion and Russell said it did not.
Board member Sherry Frazier, who usually is supportive of Russell’s ideas, was absent from Monday’s meeting due to the recent death of her husband.