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updated: 2/8/2011 11:55 AM

Geneva library trustees vote to keep trying to buy Cetron factory site

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  • The Geneva Public Library board is advancing in its purchase of the Cetron factory building on Richards Street for the library's new location.

      The Geneva Public Library board is advancing in its purchase of the Cetron factory building on Richards Street for the library's new location.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

Geneva library trustees Thursday voted to continue with buying a site for a new library, despite requests from residents that it investigate other options to get more space.

The vote is part of the process of buying the former Cetron factory site on Richards Street, as well as several adjacent properties. The board voted in July to buy them for $2 million. Thursday's vote, adopting an ordinance and financing plan for the purchase, was one of several things it needs to do before closing on the deal, according to library board president Esther Barclay.

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Trustee Stephen Andersson was the only trustee to vote "no," as he did in July. He sent an e-mail to some people urging them to attend the meeting and suggesting that a citizens committee be formed to study the space issue. He also sent the e-mail to local newspapers.

About 50 people showed up at a public hearing before the board meeting, with some arguing in favor of staying in the current building and purchasing two buildings to the north. One of them, the former home of Viking Office Supply, fronts on State Street. The one in between "is practically connected to the library," said resident Fred Creiger.

The present library is 40,000 square feet. The board thinks the library should have 60,000 square feet to serve its population of 30,000 residents.

Some residents noted they would hate to see the library leave its Craftsman-style building, which was paid for with a gift from the Carnegie Foundation. The original portion opened in 1908; it was expanded in 1938, 1986 and 1998. Others said the proposed new location really isn't "downtown." The library has a goal of staying in the downtown. Critics Thursday said that patrons would not be likely to walk from it to businesses along Third Street. "This will not bring foot traffic to downtown Geneva," said Geneva school trustee Leslie Juby.

Some, however, spoke in favor of moving to the Cetron site. The factory, which once produced electronics equipment including vacuum tubes, has been vacant since the mid-1980s. A developer bought it, a house and an office building in 2007, but a bank has since taken over the properties. The building is in disrepair and animals have moved in, one resident said.

The sale is contingent on the library getting another appraisal of the site, and with it being satisfied with the results of an environmental inspection.

"We are not going to put this library district in a position where we have millions of dollars of environmental cleanup," Barclay told the guests.

One new wrinkle mentioned Thursday was that the current building has a covenant on it, placed a century ago by the Carnegie Foundation, requiring the property to be used as a library. Barclay said the library's attorney says the library can either ask a judge to remove the covenant or provide title insurance to any buyer to cover the risk. Andersson criticized that.

"Now the plan is to basically say 'The heck with it' and go back on the word of our forebears. Just because we can doesn't mean we should," he said.

But former trustee Dan Boone said given that the Carnegie Foundation has a mission "establish, promite and preserve" libraries, "I think they would be very upset to learn (the covenant is being used) to prevent a library from improving service in its community."

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