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updated: 9/7/2012 6:16 PM

Grant funding debate delays Aurora vote on library loan

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An Aurora City Council vote that had been scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11 about borrowing $22.4 million to finance construction of a new main library has been postponed, officials said Friday.

The matter, which sparked debate among aldermen earlier this week, now is likely to be brought for a vote Tuesday, Sept. 25, according to a memo from Finance Director Brian Caputo.

"I think it's constructive to hold it for two weeks," Alderman Bob O'Connor said.

The vote was delayed on Caputo's advice because there was no consensus about whether to sell $22.4 million in library bonds, said Carie Anne Ergo, chief management officer. Aldermen were divided because some objected to the library's planned use of $10.8 million in grant funding likely to come from the state.

According to a library board resolution submitted to the city this spring, all funds received for the new building and related costs to were to be used to "reduce the real estate tax burden on Aurora homeowners," unless the funds were restricted to a different and incompatible purpose.

Library board member John Savage said $7.6 million of the prospective grant would be allocated toward reducing the size of the loan from $30 million to $22.4 million. The remaining $3.2 in grant funding is tied to land acquisition, and could reimburse the library for costs it already ensued, he said.

Aldermen Al Lewandowski, Lynda Elmore and Rick Lawrence questioned whether the library was upholding the promise made in April, when aldermen approved the sale of up to $30 million in bonds to fund the new main library, two satellite library locations and technology upgrades. They said all grant funding -- not just a portion of it -- should be used to decrease bond debt.

"We passed a specific resolution to help the taxpayers," Lawrence said.

He said it's "frustrating" that the library made a promise in the spring and now does not plan to use all the grant funding for which it is eligible to cut bond costs.

Ergo said the library is holding true to its grant use promise. While the entire $10.8 million in prospective state funding would not be put toward reducing the loan, some of the grant money is tied to land acquisition, not new construction costs, Ergo and Savage said.

"There wasn't a lot of clarity on the issue," Ergo said. "Some (aldermen) thought the project was growing, which was not accurate."

Aldermen, city staff and library officials will hold discussions before the Sept. 25 city council meeting to attempt to form an agreement. Some of those discussions are likely to occur at the Sept. 18 committee of the whole meeting at 5 p.m. on the fifth floor of city hall, 44 E. Downer Place, Ergo said.

O'Connor said other conversations may happen in one-on-one talks or small meetings. He does not anticipate the matter being brought back before the finance committee, which he leads.

"It would be fine if we wanted to have it in the finance committee again to have the discussion," he said. "But that really doesn't help the other nine members of the council because they're not there at that meeting."

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