Schaumburg library cafe still up for debate
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Four years after he cast the lone vote against it, Schaumburg Township District Library candidate Richard Hetzer continues to criticize the long-term lease extension given to the operator of the central library cafe.
In 2007, the library board voted 6-1 to extend Terry Philippas' lease to operate the cafe through June 30, 2018.
Then as now, Hetzer criticized the extension for its length, lack of board control and what he sees as the taxpayer subsidy of many of the ordinary overhead costs of a private business — such as garbage pickup and pest control.
Nevertheless, incumbent candidates Debby Miller and Nick Scipione and newcomer Julie Wroblewski Bosshart see the cafe as a worthy service to library patrons and praise the operator for succeeding where previous leaseholders failed.
"The person running it now has worked miracles with it," Miller said. "It's an expensive undertaking for whoever takes the lease. The cafe was never intended to be a moneymaker, but a service. I think it's being run very well now."
"I'm with Debby. I'm happy with the way the cafe is being run now," Wroblewski Bosshart said. "It's consistent with the ways library services are changing. It doesn't seem like there's anything broken there to me, either."
Scipione pointed out that the lease extension and ongoing oversight of the cafe have passed the scrutiny of fellow Trustee Ruth Jonen, the retired head of food service for Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211.
"I don't see it as a heavy drain on our resources," Scipione said. "It's supposed to be providing a service at a relatively low cost to our patrons."
All the candidates agree that putting off a possible tax-hike referendum for as long as possible is a worthy goal. The board very nearly placed a referendum on the April ballot.
Hetzer argued that delaying a referendum is best done by controlling costs and seeking new sources of revenue from non-taxpayers — like the cafe lease holder.
He suggests the lease should have had a provision allowing the library to collect a portion of proceeds when profits exceed a certain level, in exchange for the building costs the library is handling on the cafe's behalf.
He also said the rights of both parties to the lease are lopsided, with the cafe operator able to break the agreement with a few months' notice but the library having no such option.
From the time Philippas took over the 750-square-foot cafe in 2002 until the lease was extended in April 2007, he'd been paying $400 a month rent. The extension required an annual increase based on the rate of inflation.
But Hetzer said his research through local real estate companies told him the rent was more than 28 percent less than the going rate for that type of commercial space — even if it didn't include free utilities and maintenance.
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