Frustration builds over stalled Lombard library plan
Lombard residents are voicing frustration over the lack of progress in building a new library.
Voters in November approved a property tax increase so the outdated Helen M. Plum Library could be replaced with a larger, more modern structure at 110 W. Maple St. But efforts to construct the new building have been stalled by the library's inability to convince the park district to sign off on the project.
The library needs the park district's permission because it wants parts of the building to be more than one story on land that used to be part of neighboring Lilacia Park.
So several residents who attended Tuesday night's library board meeting said they were puzzled about why trustees are taking preliminary steps to borrow up to $25 million for the project. A public hearing for a proposed bond sale was held during the meeting.
Library officials told about two dozen people in the audience that the hearing was a procedural step so the board can act quickly to borrow the money if and when it's needed for the project.
"We are just getting it out of the way," board Vice President John Larkin read from a prepared statement. "We do not intend to issue bonds until the building plan is in place and the public is informed."
Still, resident Kenneth Wojcik said it was "premature" for trustees to even talk about borrowing money.
"Considering that you don't have the rights to build on this property with the plan that you had put forth, I don't think it's a good idea," Wojcik said. "You don't even know if you're going to build here."
Resident Robert Biddle told library trustees they were putting the cart before the horse.
"You don't have a plan," he said. "You've got no relationship with the park district. You have no business even having a public hearing for a bond issue at this point."
The reason the library needs permission from the park district dates to the 1970s, when it acquired part of Lilacia Park so it could expand its first floor.
As part of that deal, the roof of the library addition was made into a plaza that overlooks the park. While the library owns the plaza deck, the park district owns the air space above it.
The park district gave the library land on several occasions with the understanding that nothing would be built beyond a certain height at those locations. The park district says it has air rights to the north, east and west of the library.
Park commissioners say library officials knew long before the referendum that they wouldn't be allowed to encroach further into Lilacia Park.
The park district has offered to do a land swap, but Helen Plum officials say they don't want to move the library.
"We really are hopeful that our beautiful library will overlook their beautiful park," library Trustee Allison Pinkett-Floyd said. "In the end, that's what we want."
Still, resident Kelly Mullins said she's "very upset" with the delay, especially since she's already paying higher property taxes to the library because of the referendum.
"You have my money and nothing is being done," Mullins said. "I want my money back."
Library officials insist there will be a new building. They said they're considering "multiple options," but didn't elaborate.
Last week, representatives for the library and park district met for first time "in a while," according to library Director Barb Kruser.
"We talked about some different ideas about moving forward," Kruser said. "We left the meeting feeling good. We think it went well."
Kruser said library board President Jason Brandt and Dave Kundrot, the president of the park district board, agreed to meet regularly.
"There's more meetings to come with the park," Kruser said. "So more news will be forthcoming."
Meanwhile, resident Mary Marshall urged library trustees to continue their efforts to construct a new building at the library's current location.
She said they should continue negotiating with the park district so "the community will have the library building they deserve and are already paying for."