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Friends host Q&A about potential move

January 19, 2011 - There was definitely no shortage of questions Jan. 13 as the Friends of the Addison Township Public Library hosted an informational meeting regarding the library's potential move into the Lakeville Towne Square strip mall (see related story above).

Following a brief PowerPoint presentation, the highlights of which can be viewed in the shaded box on Page 12, the Friends conducted a moderated question-and-answer period with the public.

Each member of the audience was invited to write their questions on slips of paper. They were then read aloud by a moderator and answered by various library officials.

Here's a summary of the major questions asked and the answers given:

How much more will the rent and operating costs be for the strip mall location versus the present site?

Right now, the library pays the township $680 per month to rent its current 1,200-to-1,300-square-foot facility. That price includes electric, however, the library must pay its own natural gas bills, which amounted to a total of $1,500 last year.

The proposed 3,000-square-foot strip mall site would cost $1,000 per month, plus electric and natural gas.

Operating in the strip mall location would cost the library an estimated $5,000 more each year, based on projections from Library Director Michele Presley.

How much will it cost to renovate the strip mall space in order to meet the library's needs?

The "worst case scenario" for the renovation cost is approximately $110,000 to $115,000, according to Presley.

That estimate was provided by Library Design Associates, Inc., the Plymouth-based consulting firm that designed a preliminary layout for converting the strip mall space into a public library.

Presley admitted she was shocked by the potential cost. "I just about fell on the floor."

However, she believes the renovation can be done for much less because the $110,000-to-$115,000 estimate was based on having all the work performed by professionals and buying all new things to furnish the place.

"That was with new furniture. That was with all new chairs, all new this, all new that," Presley explained.

Presley believes "it can be done for significantly less."

"I really, truly do," she said.

This can be accomplished by utilizing furnishings such as the used shelving (valued at $30,000 new) she received free of charge from the Ferndale library and the three used tables she obtained from Chelsea library.

The renovation cost can also be cut by using local folks who are willing to "come together as a community" and donate their time, talents and labor.

"There are things we don't have to have done professionally," Presley said. "My best estimate right now – and again I want you to realize I am not experienced at renovating a space – I think we can do it for about $50,000 to $60,000. But it's going to take a community effort. It's going to take people who are willing to come out and say, 'You know what? You don't have to spend $8,000 demolishing this interior. We'll come and do it.' Maybe there's somebody who would donate (a) dumpster and haul it away."

Does the library have any money to pay for the renovation and increased operating costs? If so, how much?

According to Presley, the library has $228,174 invested in Certificates of Deposit.

This money, saved from previous budgets over the course of the library's history, is what the library plans to use to renovate the strip mall space and cover increased operational costs, should the board sign the lease.

Presley noted she's also made cuts to the library budget to help to cover the additional costs. "I just rearranged the budget. There are some things that I reduced, that I cut out," she explained. "You have to make choices and you have to make sacrifices. That's what you do when you budget."

One of those cuts included the kids summer reading program. Instead of paying for it from the library budget, the Friends group will financially support it beginning this year.

With the exception of one employee who received a raise because he was earning minimum wage, Presley noted the library staff hasn't had any pay increases in three years.

She also noted that none of the staffers receive benefits.

Would this move result in a property tax increase?

"Right now, the plan is not to raise anybody's taxes to move into that facility," Presley said.

It appears the library currently has enough in its savings to accomplish the move and run the new facility.

However, Presley noted that due to declining property tax revenues, the board may have to ask the voters at some point to increase the library's millage regardless of where the facility is located.

"If push comes to shove and you're starting to really, truly have a serious decline in revenue because property values have continued to fall, it's an option that your library's going to be proposing regardless of where (we) stay if you want to maintain the level of services that you have right now, the level of staffing, the level of materials being made available to the community, the level of programming," she explained. "It is a possibility in the future, but right now, it's not in the plan."

Currently, the library levies a property tax of 0.5716 mill. When voters originally approved it back in 1984, the rate of 0.75 mill.

Only a vote of the Addison residents can raise the tax. "That would be a decision that the citizens in this township would make," Presley said. "That wouldn't be up to the library board to say, 'Oh, we're going to raise taxes.' And that wouldn't be up to me."

Presley noted that if voters chose to increase the tax back to the original 0.75-mill rate, "you could operate the library in the new facility without a deficit, without having to dip into your fund balance (i.e. savings) to make up that difference."

Were other options considered such as purchasing the strip mall or another building? Were other sites considered?

"We don't have the money to purchase the strip mall. It's as simple as that," noted Su Hatfield, the library board's vice president and secretary.

Truthfully, the library doesn't have enough extra funds to purchase any building right now, according to officials.

Hatfield indicated library officials looked renting space in another strip mall location, the Kingswood Plaza on Rochester Rd., but the rental rate was out of their price range.

The library looked at the vacant M. Antonik Co. building located at 3637 Lakeville Rd., just west of the Lakeville Animal Clinic.

However, the building is located less than a half-mile from the Addison-Oxford border and officials want something more centrally located. Also, this facility would cost $595,000 to purchase and the library can't afford that.

Library officials looked at the old mill in downtown Leonard, however, the building is three stories high, so in order to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an elevator would have to be installed.

Such a building would also require two library staff members working on each floor at all times, according to Hatfield.

"That's going to be a huge budget increase," she said.

Right now, the library is staffed by one full-time employee and four part-timers, who each work less than 20 hours a week. The library always has one to two employees working at any given time.

Hatfield noted Leonard's old mill also has no parking and the owner is only interested in selling it, not leasing it.

After considering all these potential spots, she said it was determined the Lakeville Towne Square is the most suitable location.

"We have looked at all these different options. It's not like this is the only thing we've ever looked at," she said. "This is the only one that has come anywhere close to being what we can afford."

What new services would be offered to the public if the library were to move into the strip mall?

"I would be remiss in my responsibilities if we were promising you new services because it's not in the budget," Presley said. "The budget of the library is fixed. There is no plan for increased staffing. There is no plan for increased services because there is no more money to provide those services."

"With property values decreasing as they have over the past few years, the library is losing revenue," she explained. "We have a fixed income. It's 0.5716 mills. That's it. That's all we have. That's what we operate on. So, I'm not going to stand here and promise you any new services."

What the strip mall location would give library patrons is additional space.

"What you are getting with this new space, if it's decided that that's what's best for the library, is a destination point, a place where you can come to your library, you can sit down, you can read the Oakland Press, you can read the magazines. Your kids can sit there and do their homework on a table that we don't have to move junk off of to make space for them."

Presley noted she could finally hold storytime for the kids without having to move a bunch of things to make space for the event.

The strip mall location would also provide enough space to house three new computers and allow patrons to use them in comfort.

"You could sit down," Presley said. "You wouldn't have to stand at the (computer) terminal, the one terminal that we have now."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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