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County, library commit to work toward library capital improvement

Manistee Main Library (file photo)

Manistee Main Library (file photo)

MANISTEE COUNTY — The Manistee County Library committed to studying the feasibility of funding the replacement of it’s heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system, along with renovations that could cost up to $3 million.

The main funding sources to be looked at are private donations, bonds and a millage proposal that could be on the ballot sometime in 2015.

At a joint meeting between the county ways and means committee and the library’s financial feasibility sub-committee on Wednesday, commissioner Jim Krolczyk said that a millage for the whole county would be hard to get approved by voters because there are branch libraries in many of the small communities, and those people don’t use the main building in the city.

But, library director Charles Haemker said the branch libraries wouldn’t exist without services from the main library — if it were to shut down, so would the branches.

“A millage is a hard sell, but it’s a sell that needs to be made,” he said. “There will be benefits to the out-county libraries.”

A county-wide millage to operate the library is already in place, which indicates there is support for the library, said John Faher, library board treasurer.

“We have a commitment to keep up this building, it should at least be functional,” said commissioner Mark Bergstrom.

The library plans to work with The Breton Group, which is based in Grand Rapids, and has worked on feasibility studies for more than 50 libraries in Michigan. The contract was signed by library board president, Steve Rogers, following the meeting.

The contract is for no more than $16,000, the Manistee County Board of Commissioners has already committed up to $5,000 to help pay for the study, the remainder would be paid by the library. If begun soon, the study could be completed in July — there is a 90-day time table.

The study will be conducted with the goal of raising $3 million to cover the complete library project, which would include a full HVAC replacement, a new meeting room, a universally-accessible bathroom, a staff break room, raised ceiling and day-lighting, a fire alarm system, historic replica light fixtures, historic replica columns, restoration of the gallery ceiling, skylights, added shelving, removing and replacing the computer area, universally-accessible improvements and more.

The goals of the study are to:

  • build awareness among the public;
  • evaluate financial support;
  • identify issues or obstacles hindering greater financial support;
  • assess the library’s readiness for capital campaign;
  • cultivate leadership gift prospects;
  • identify potential campaign leaders; and
  • build campaign momentum.

At the completion of the study, Breton will present a campaign plan, recommendations, and favorable and unfavorable factors.

To begin the process, a study committee will be established, which will include six to eight people from the library, county government and community leaders. Bergstrom, and county administrator and controller Tom Kaminski volunteered to represent the county. The library will be represented by Haemker, board president Steve Rogers, board treasurer John Faher, and the library’s accountant, David Richards. Community leaders haven’t been identified yet.

The committee will meet for about 90 minutes, about three times to develop a document explaining why the community should support the library renovations, identify key members of the community that could be significant donors, approve an online survey and more. The process is expected to take about four weeks.

The following four weeks would be spent conducting interviews, and taking surveys.

In the final four weeks of the study, Breton would review and analyze all the information collected.

Mark Morrow, president of Breton, said the study is the easy part, the capital campaign will be a whole different world.

He added that the campaign usually takes about a year, and reasonably could raise 10 percent to 20 percent of the total budget. The biggest 10 to 12 donations will determine the success of the campaign.

“Major gifts usually come from people who never go into the library, because they realize the quality of life value to the community,” Morrow said.

Krolczyk and other commissioners said they expect a larger portion to come from private donations in light of the success of the Ramsdell Theatre and Community Arts Center and the Vogue Theatre.

“We’re all on the same page, and we’re moving forward,” Haemker said.

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Posted by Justine McGuire

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