Library renovation work begins Monday

The Big Rapids Community Library

The Big Rapids Community Library

BIG RAPIDS — A $1 million renovation at the Big Rapids Community Library begins Monday.

City Manager Steve Sobers

City Manager Steve Sobers

City Manager Steve Sobers said construction crews will begin working next week on some outside issues at the library, located at 426 S. Michigan Ave.

“Probably 90 percent of the work for the first two to three weeks will be outside,” Sobers said.

The project is expected to take about eight months.

“It’s gone according to plan,” Sobers said, adding he is ecstatic at the work already completed.

The library moved more than 50,000 items to the Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education in August. Sobers said the moves has been successful.

“That location is doing extremely well,” he said. “They’re seeing a pretty sizable number, a surprising number (of patrons).”

City Commissioners approved the issuance of capital improvement bonds that could total as much as $550,000 during a Sept. 3 meeting, finalizing funding for the renovations.

The project will cost just more than $1 million with money raised from the city, donations and Friends of the Library totaling about $680,000.

Sobers said there will be a larger discussion by commissioners on the future of the library during a Sept. 30 commission retreat.

“This (will focus) on how townships are funding,” Sobers said. “It will focus on penal fines and the millage.”

Sobers said he expects to find how supportive townships are of the project during the retreat and in the coming months.

In the early 1990s, seven townships signed contracts with the city stating that each year they would fund 0.3 of a mill to the library through penal fines. If the penal fines didn’t add up to the amount of 0.3 of a mill, the townships were required to make up the difference. The state requires these contracts to qualify for state aid.

For numerous years, the penal fines were enough to cover the 0.3 of a mill required by the contracts and the townships did not have to pay out of pocket.

During the 2002-03 fiscal year, a majority of the townships’ penal fines were no longer enough to cover the amount owed to the city. That trend has continued for the past decade, with the difference between penal fines and 0.3 of a mill steadily increasing each year. Collectively, the township’s owed the city about $225,000.

In that same time period, the city’s penal fines were added toward the library’s overall funding, which offset the differences for each township. The state’s analysis of the library’s funding only looked at the overall total, not the individual contracts. City officials later discovered that each township should have been paying the difference in their respective contracts.

Big Rapids Township approved paying $5,000 toward the difference.

Sobers said all local townships will be invited to the retreat.

In June, Sobers outlined an idea to make service contracts between the city and partnering townships more equal. He said this meeting could be the beginning of that process.

“My vision, which can be changed instantly by the commission, is that once this meeting is done … we will set up a committee of a couple of commissioners, library board folks and a couple of townships,” Sobers said. “That core group will work out what new contracts may look like to replace what we’ve got.”

Leave a Reply