Recap of the Library Board of Trustees Meeting

4500Two things became readily apparent at the library board of trustees meeting last night:

1. They’ve hired a world-class team of architects with HBM architects out of Cleveland, and
2. Our residents are angry. Very angry. It looked like one of our council meetings of late.

The room was packed and in attendance were State Rep. and former Mayor Cheryl Grossman, City Administrator Chuck Boso, Councilman Steve Bennett, and Dispatch reporter Earl Rinehart and GC Record reporter Mark Dubovec.

The meeting focused on the presentation of the architects on their design renderings for the Broadway location only. I think some people thought there would be more discussion on alternative locations, but that didn’t happen until the end of the presentation when it was proclaimed that other alternatives were off the table.

The architect (Dan Meehan) took us through the design concept and discussed how the architectural team and the library staff looked at the changes that needed to be made to the building to allow the partial Columbus St. extension. He emphasized that they had considered the possibility of Columbus St. going all the way through to Beulah in their plans as a ‘just in case’ scenario and had adjusted their plans accordingly.

It’s definitely a different design, but there isn’t much loss to overall square footage. They were able to salvage most of what was in the original design and possibly made some enhancements. At this point, I don’t think the original plans had been completely firmed up either. I couldn’t tell if the tower was gone as the plans only focused on the layout of the building. The rooftop cafe was gone, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that would have been killed part way through the process. It was a striking design and would certainly have made for quite the statement as the entrance to our town center.

There are plans for a ‘cafe’ although that term could end up meaning only an area with tables and vending machines. I know many of us would love a true cafe along the lines of what Barnes and Noble or even the Columbus Metropolitan library have.  I do think it would be well-patronized.

Meehan focused a good portion of the discussion on the needs and location of entrance ways, drop off points, and delivery access. Although the plans and discussions are still preliminary, it looks like there will be two entrances–one facing Broadway and one facing the parking lot, which will be in the back of the building. There will likely be a drop off point in the back and a service area with cut out along Grant St. so that trucks can easily drop off supplies/books, etc.  The entrance along Broadway will be monitored to prevent the ‘faster than lightening kids’ from escaping out the front door from the children’s area.

Most likely the children’s area and the cafe will be glass enclosed and face Broadway as an enticing view for pedestrians and vehicles passing by the building. The children’s area will morph into the teen area.   By the back exit will be meeting space that can accommodate upwards of 150 people. Upstairs will be mostly the adult and staff areas.

It’s a beautiful plan. No doubt they would design a stunning plan wherever they were asked to. They’re a quality (and patient) firm.

In fact one resident asked them to look at not only the grassy lot next door, but also the Kingston Building. Interesting thought, but too late in the process.

After the board members asked their questions, which mostly revolved around the safety of the children’s area, whether this plan could accommodate the full extension of Columbus St. with minimal impact, and about some parking and layout questions, the floor was opened up to residents.

I’d say that most residents who spoke came to express their frustration with the resolutions that council has supported. They’re upset that the library has been forced to either accept the city’s money and have Columbus St. extend through their property or leave the joint project. There was support for my resolution to allow the library to build on the lot next door and use the current site for parking. I’d say lots of support, but I’m biased. Director Mark Shaw did present the board with the petition signatures gathered by Krysta Funk in supporting my resolution. She collected nearly 200 signatures collected in 3 days on her own time. A couple of residents shared their frustration about the Columbus St. extension and their worries about the busyness of Broadway as a state highway with heavy truck traffic and the impact that would have on patron safety.

In the end, trustee Jill Billman Royer succinctly reiterated the choices facing the board–they had to either accept the city’s money and consider the plan presented last night or go back to Plan B, which is to renovate the current building with no city funds. Financially leaving the city would be very difficult because the rebuild costs would be substantial and they have limited funds.  It sounded like they weren’t up for a bond levy fight. Nor were they willing to listen to “Door #3,” Councilman Bennett’s option to put the library on the lumberyard. Billman Royer stressed they were too far in the process to consider anything else.

The board discussed their frustration with new options and the amount of time and energy that this process has cost. One resident asked about how much money the library has spent on the extra delays at this point, and the reply was $10k on legal costs thus far. I would like to point out that as of today we have no idea how much extra the city has paid–we know that at least the $30k study is one cost. Overtime costs for the city, architects, engineers, etc. will hopefully be available soon. I’ve asked for costs related to the extension project, but the only number I’ve seen is the $780,000 for the realignment. I don’t think we’ll ever know the full extent of the additional costs, but it’s lesson in how difficult it is to get anything done when the government is involved. It’s also an important lesson in how quickly costs can escalate and that the ultimate loser is the taxpayer. I wouldn’t be surprised if this project costs an extra $2-4 million when we are done.  Although the meeting was a bit hostile and critical, I’d say that many residents are paying attention, which is definitely a good thing when tax dollars are involved. As a couple of other residents noted, our reputation has taken a hit throughout this process given all the press and negative behavior that has been on display. Hopefully, we can move on soon.

I’m disappointed that the library will likely not move to the extra lot on Park St. with city money, although I do hold out hope that if they chose to walk away from the city’s current deal, we could salvage the situation and make them whole again. It’s been promised to them by council that we could give them ‘whatever they want.’ If only we could make that a reality.