Lombard library adds meetings ahead of fall tax hike requests

Helen Plum Library leaders in Lombard hope more residents hear about planned upgrades ahead of fall tax hike request

  • Community engagement sessions have been scheduled through May to give Lombard residents an opportunity to hear more about plans to renovate, expand or replace the Helen Plum Library. This rendering shows what the front of the library could look like if it was replaced with a new building.

    Community engagement sessions have been scheduled through May to give Lombard residents an opportunity to hear more about plans to renovate, expand or replace the Helen Plum Library. This rendering shows what the front of the library could look like if it was replaced with a new building. courtesy of the Helen Plum Library

  • This rendering shows what the back of the library could look like if it was replaced with a new building.

    This rendering shows what the back of the library could look like if it was replaced with a new building. courtesy of the Helen Plum Library

 
 
Posted3/5/2016 5:28 AM

Helen Plum Library leaders don't want Lombard residents caught by surprise next fall when officials ask for money to either expand and renovate the existing 53-year-old structure or build a new one.

So while officials already have held six community engagement sessions in January and February, they now say they'll continue their outreach effort into May.

 

Communication Manager Sue Wilsey said the decision came after only about 60 people total attended the first half-dozen informational meetings.

"So far it's been a small number of people, considering the size of the community," she said. "We'd love to get more engagement if possible."

The new sessions are scheduled for three Saturdays -- 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 6; 2 p.m. Saturdays, March 19 and May 21; and 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, and Thursdays, March 31 and April 14. All sessions will be held at the library, 110 W. Maple St.

At the first six sessions, attendees were presented with conclusions made by consultants about the condition of the building and how Helen Plum's offerings compare to what is available at other area libraries.

"I think that the community continues to need to get that information because there are misperceptions about the library and the value of it in the community and what it really has to offer," Wilsey said.

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It is estimated that it will cost about $8.1 million to renovate the current building. Necessary improvements include the installation of a sprinkler system and new mechanical equipment, as well as the replacement of the roof, original window units and crumbling masonry on the plaza deck.

Additionally, a space assessment found Helen Plum falls behind on many performance measurements, such as program attendance and visits, when compared to other area libraries. It suggested providing more options for seating, studying and collaboration, improved handicapped accessibility, additional areas to accommodate larger groups, improved access to technology and drive-through service.

If an addition is constructed to provide extra space for those offerings, officials say the cost would amount to about $20.1 million. Completely replacing the current building and constructing a new one, however, would cost about $21.5 million.

Since the community engagement process began, residents have been offering suggestions and asking questions about future plans, including the potential to relocate the building entirely, perhaps to vacant DuPage Theatre or Mr. Z's properties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Wilsey said the sessions give library officials an opportunity to explain why it is important to keep the library where it is, especially because if the building is expanded or rebuilt, the library already owns about 19,000 square feet of land to the west of the current building that could be developed.

The board has plans to discuss the proposals and feedback over the next two months. Once they select which way to go forward, a financial firm will determine exact costs and how much tax bills would be increased if voters support the plans.

Wilsey said she expects the community engagement sessions in March will continue to be focused on providing residents with information about the building concepts and current cost models, but by April and May the focus will likely shift to hard costs and how they would affect residents.

"It's a great place to ask questions of those who are making the decisions," she said of the meetings. "Our goal by the end of May is to be able to say, 'This is the specific plan the board has decided upon, this is what it will cost and this is what it will look like on the ballot.'"

Anyone interested in learning more about plans for the building's future can join a mailing list and read more information at helenplumnextchapter.org.

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