Aurora approves library plan

Aurora Public Library leaders on Tuesday took the controversy out of their request for city funding to support a new downtown library.

By pledging to put an entire $10.8 million state grant toward project costs, the library received approval of the sale of $19.2 million in bonds to support construction of a new main library downtown and systemwide improvements.

“We’re proposing that the entire $10.8 million, if we do receive that amount, would be abated back to the community,” Savage said.

Controversy arose two weeks ago over how the library planned to use the state grant it is likely to receive. Library officials pledged this spring to put all grant money toward decreasing the size of a loan the city would take out for the project. But earlier this month, they said a $3.2 million chunk of the state grant would go toward other costs, and some aldermen questioned whether this plan broke the original promise.

A vote on the issue was delayed, but when it came up for discussion Tuesday, library board member John Savage announced a change of course.

“We didn’t want this to be a negative,” Savage said. “We hear the community loud and clear and we want to do what’s best.”

The grant would shrink the tax burden on Aurora property owners by lowering the amount of bonds the city must sell from $30 million to $19.2 million. A smaller bond issue means a lower tax increase for the average Aurora homeowner, who originally stood to pay $26 more a year in property taxes for 30 years.

Alderman Al Lewandowski, who asked earlier this month why the library did not intend to put the entire grant toward the city’s debt, said he appreciated the shift on the funding issue.

“That’s how it should have been in the first place,” he said.

Aldermen Bob O’Connor and Rick Lawrence echoed Lewandowski’s words of appreciation for the library’s new grant use plan, but Lawrence said he still opposes the plan to build a $27 million new main library downtown and make $3 million in systemwide improvements.

“I still have the same objection to the project that I had before, which is the way you chose the contractors,” Lawrence said.

His “no” was joined by Alderman Stephanie Kifowit, who said she voted against the sale of $19.2 million in bonds because of concerns about any property tax increase in this economic climate. Alderman Rick Mervine abstained, making the tally 9-2 in favor of selling the bonds and letting the library project move forward.

Mayor Tom Weisner commended the library for its aggressiveness in seeking outside funding, saying no one expected the project to “garner grants in the amount of a full third of the cost.”

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