Library bid approved; financing options to come to commission within 30 days

BIG STEP: City Manager Steve Sobers tells commissioners about the costs associated with the library renovation project.

BIG RAPIDS — City Manager Steve Sobers shot a grin toward Miriam Andrus, interim Big Rapids Community Library director, at about 7:30 p.m, minutes before the city took a major step forward in the library renovation project.

City commissioners awarded a bid for renovation of the library to Steve Jones Construction of Big Rapids, something Sobers and Andrus have worked hard for.

“For the entire 10 years I have been here, we have looked and searched for the right combination to renovate the library,” Sobers told commissioners. “A number of different community groups have been appointed to review the options available. … We have bid the library project, and the low bidder, I’m also happy to report, is Steve Jones, a local construction company that we have worked successfully with on a number of projects.”

Sobers explained the costs to commissioners in his position paper.

QUESTIONS: Interim Big Rapids Community Library Director Miriam Andrus answers some questions posed by city commissioners during Monday’s commission meeting.

The bid, including new windows on the south and east elevations and a front entry book drop will total $732,628, Sobers said. Including architect fees, the project costs $886,475.64.

Financing options will come before commissioners within the next 30 days, before any construction would start, Sobers said.

“That said, this does not include a furniture number, which has been estimated at a little over $100,000,” Sobers added, saying that would have to be bid out.

Library supporters may look to raise funds money for the furniture, he said.

Library offices and books will be moved to the Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education in early to mid-August, as approved by commissioners.

Ferris State University will receive $7,500 total from the city to house the community library for roughly eight months.

In other news, Mayor Mark Warba presented the first-ever State of the City address, as approved in the latest city charter.

STATE OF THE CITY: Mayor Mark Warba talks during the first State of the City address. Warba addressed present and future goals in industry, recreation and education.

He began by focusing on industry. Warba mentioned recent projects in the city, some of which had been spurred on by city help, he said.

“Some may question the wisdom of the city granting tax abatement to industry,” he said. “However, the ability to do so allows the Haworth Corp., which operates a steel and wood plan in Big Rapids, to move $27 million worth of equipment and, with it, 90 new jobs into our city.”

The growth and addition of local businesses both within the city and outside of it are vital to success, he said.

“We are approaching $70 million of development in Mecosta County, a great deal of which can be found within the city,” Warba said.

His focus then shifted toward recreation.

“For a city our size, I like to think we’re second to none in terms of the recreational opportunities,” he said. “Numerous parks, a community pool, the Riverwalk and the Muskegon River help make the city what it is.”

But commitment to taking care of those resources is just as important as having them, he said.

Tennis court improvements, the Baldwin Street Bridge renovation and library renovation all are examples of taking care of what we have, he said.

“The alternative to taking care of what we have is to ask this question: what would the city and community be like without our parks, without a riverwalk, without a community pool, without a community library,” he said. “Considering the alternatives makes clear our responsibility to take care of what we have.”

As education came to the forefront of the speech, Warba pondered if Woodbridge Ferris would choose Big Rapids as the home for his school, as he did in 1884.

“With the combination of public and parochial schools, a charter academy, blue ribbon high school and what has been the fastest growing public university in the state of Michigan, I believe Mr. Ferris would say yes to Big Rapids once again,” Warba said.

In other news, commissioners also approved a commercial recycling program for city businesses.

The program, which is unmandated, costs businesses $12.10 monthly beginning July 1, 2013. Each year, through July 1, 2017, the cost would go up slightly.

Commissioners also adopted a best practices guideline for accommodating persons with disabilities and service animals at meetings held at public facilities.

City attorney Eric Williams said the need for the adoption stemmed from a complaint after a person with her service dog was denied access to a meeting at the old jail.

The city guidelines only allow dogs as service animals per the Americans with Disabilities Act recognizing trained dogs.

Commissioner Lorraine James asked if that would include smaller lap dogs that some people bring to meetings.

“There is a process that one goes through to certify your dog,” Sobers answered, saying some smaller dogs are trained for several purposes.

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