Library board votes to spend more, cut less forest for new branch

The animated image alternates between options for the new library branch with (1) a single wing of surface parking to the west and a parking garage under the building and (2) two wings of surface parking, one to the west and one to the east. Drawings, which were included in the library board’s meeting information packet, are by Matheu Architects.

On Tuesday night, the board of the Monroe County Public Library voted unanimously in favor of a design for its planned new branch that incorporates a parking garage under the 21,000 square-foot building, instead of relying on a second wing of surface lot parking.

The branch will include a total of about 105 parking spaces.

The option with the parking garage means a smaller footprint for the new construction. Architect Christine Matheu’s drawings show it wedged into the southwest corner of the forested site near Batchelor Middle School just southwest of Bloomington.

The garage option means that fewer trees in the forested area will need to be cut down to allow the new library branch to be built. The area was planted with tree seedlings by school kids over the first decade of the millennium.

It was one of the factors that led board members to support spending about $900,000 more—$12.1 million compared to $11.2 million—for the design with a parking garage.

As library board member David Ferguson put it, if money were no object, then the design with the parking garage would be a “no-brainer.”

The library’s financial officer Gary Lettelleir described for the board how the parking garage option would mean spending about a million dollars more than what the library had been planning.

The original financing plan, which would use a $5-million construction bond and a $2-million general obligation bond would be revised, Lettellier said, to increase the general obligation bond to $3 million. That would be manageable, he said, even while keeping the library’s tax rate under $0.10. That’s the general guideline the board tries to follow.

Board member Kathy Loser said people will not necessarily see that the board is keeping the library’s tax rate under $0.10, but will definitely see that the library is spending an extra $1 million. “So I’m wrestling with this, in terms of how the optics appear to the community,” Loser said.

Board member Jamie Burkhart said that it was clear that preserving the existing space is important to the community.  So it is important for the new branch to make the “smallest physical imprint,” Burkhart said.

Besides the impact on the surrounding area, some other factors considered by board members included the additional cost of maintaining an elevator—which would be required for the two-story configuration of the parking garage. An identified benefit was the possible use of the parking garage as a tornado shelter or as a alternative for outdoor activities that would otherwise have been rained out.

During Tuesday’s public commentary, which came after the unanimous vote of the board, neighbor Claire Quimby expressed support for the parking garage impact, because it minimizes the impact to the forested parcel. Quimby lives on the south side Gordon Pike, across from the proposed site.

Still, Quimby said she might have asked for an option that put a parking lot to the north. Even though a parking lot to the north would require removing more trees, she noted that some of the trees had been identified in the forestry assessment in the information packet as invasive species. About the field across from her house, Quimby said it would be a great place to develop into an amphitheaters or something else. She added, “Right now it’s where I fly kites with my kids.”

Library director Marilyn Wood told The Square Beacon after Tuesday’s meeting that the next step will be to go in front of the Monroe County plan commission, which will require submitting a subdivision plan and a site plan.

After the plan commission signs off on the proposal, the land deal will be closed with the Monroe County Community School Corporation for purchase of the 5.5 acres. The agreed purchase price is $27,500 an acre. That would the cost of the land around $150,000. The cost used for land acquisition in the total project cost estimates was $200,000.

Aerial view of the vicinity of the proposed new library site from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s GIS system. The proposed site of the new library branch is in the lower left corner of the frame.

Monroe County Public Library board meeting Sept. 29, 2020

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