METAMORA – Considering this is a place where silence is usually golden, the Metamora Public Library has recently sparked a lot of heated conversations.
Too hot sometimes, some would say.
Illinois Prairie District Public Library officials want to build a new facility in Metamora, but some don’t believe it’s possible to build one near the town square. This is where the current library is located, which has been in ruins for about half a century.
“I love the town square,” said Joel Shoemaker, district director of the library. “And if we could safely set up an 11,000 square foot building in this plaza, I would be in favor of that.
“It’s not possible. There is no room for that.
The new president of the village of Metamora, John Cummings, disagrees. Her view that the new library requires a central geographic location is not necessarily shared by Shoemaker and Annie Hicks, the chair of the library board.
Hicks and Shoemaker suggested that Cummings had been unrealistic and unnecessarily abrasive in his plea in the village square. This included comments he made during a recent visit to a library board meeting.
“I had never met this man. It was quite an introduction, ”Hicks said. “I got really mad at him. … His approach was really, really bad.
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Cummings, who took office in May, conceded that Hicks might be right. But Cummings also thinks he’s right about the location of the proposed new library.
He said village officials had little or no input and much of the population of Metamora was unaware of the situation.
“When you have two governing bodies doing things, if one of them is going to do something that is going to have a dramatic impact on the other bodies, you owe it to them to talk to them about it, if it will change the dynamics of the village. Cummings said.
“It has a direct impact on the village. If you remove the bookcase from the square, you injure the square. It’s kind of our crown jewel.
“The building has bad bones. It cannot be refurbished.
The Metamora Library, located along Partridge Street just east of the plaza, has lost much of its luster over the years.
A former furniture store, the building is home to the Library District, which has branches in Benson, Germantown Hills, Roanoke, Spring Bay and Washburn.
Among other problems, the installation of Metamora is in poor condition. Its accessibility for people with disabilities is questionable at best, according to Shoemaker.
“Only by the lane, and it’s probably not even legal, but that’s what we have,” he said. “The building has bad bones. It cannot be renovated.
Relocation has been discussed for years, according to Shoemaker.
The Library District has the financial means to spend about $ 4 million on a new facility. The plan is for it to be about 4,000 square feet larger than the 7,000 square foot building the neighborhood opened in 2016 in Germantown Hills.
A new Metamora location has not been decided. The library board plans to spend at least the next six months reviewing three potential sites, according to Hicks and Shoemaker.
A site remains to be determined. Another is a vacant lot in front of the current library. An American Legion Hall once stood on this property, owned by the village, according to Cummings.
But the place that seems to intrigue library officials the most is along Coal Bank Road at the western end of Metamora, near the entrance to Black Partridge Park.
According to Hicks and Shoemaker, the Metamora Park District Board of Directors offered to offer the Library District at least 1 acre of land for little to no money. Conditions have yet to be determined, according to Michelle Spielman, the park’s district director.
Spielman and library officials suggested the Black Partridge location would benefit both entities, as well as taxpayers. Leisure and classroom spaces can be shared, as can programming. The library would also have room to expand.
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“We want this library to be the best we can get for $ 4 million,” Hicks said. “If someone gives us the land which is more or less green space, then that saves us a lot of money. And we can put it back in the building.
Cummings believes the Black Partridge site is too far, about two miles, from the village square. He said most of Metamora’s 3,700 residents live closer to the library’s current location.
“I guess where I come in is I didn’t really know about this,” said Cummings, who has served on the village council for the past two years. “I really don’t want it there. You don’t want a library in the far west of the village. It’s really embarrassing.
Feedback from board meeting not well received
In May, hours before his inauguration as village president, Cummings attended the monthly library board meeting. During the public comment period, he let board members know how he felt.
No official recording of the meeting was made. But Hicks and Shoemaker didn’t seem impressed with Cummings’ approach.
“For someone to say they didn’t know – especially someone on the village council – for me it’s hard to swallow,” Shoemaker said. “(He) came full blast to our board meeting. It was not a good start. “
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Hicks said: “He made it sound like people were going to leave the place, they had to call him and let him know. We are owners. It goes against the way democracy works for us to have to ask his permission. “
During the meeting, Cummings suggested that there may be issues with access to sewers and water for the proposed new building. The Black Partridge site is not in the village.
“I probably spoke a little too harshly,” Cummings said. “They took it as a threat.”
Cummings said the former American Legion site can accommodate a two-story 10,000-square-foot building. Library officials said the setbacks for such a building would be non-existent, construction costs would rise dramatically, and some on-street parking would likely be eliminated.
“If the only option is to build across the street, I’ll bet you two years from now we’ll have the floors redone and repainted and we’ll be sitting here,” Shoemaker said of the current library.
Surveys conducted by the Library District and an independent and allied group suggest that most respondents prefer a new building and that its location is not a factor, according to Hicks and Shoemaker. Almost every public comment the board has received has reflected this.
Cummings said only a slight majority of survey respondents agreed with any location. He also said he did not believe the polls were adequately made public when they were taken.
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“I don’t really think they spoke much to the people of Metamora,” said Cummings, who suggested another year of talking would be appropriate. “I think there are a lot of people in the village who have no idea what’s going on.
“If the people in the village really want it in Black Partridge, I’m not going to stand in their way. I don’t think they really know about this and that there are other options.”
Hicks and Shoemaker said all options are being considered and all views are being sought. But if there is a significant segment so far unknown from Metamorans that would prefer the library to stay put, now is the time to speak.
“We will get all our information, we will study it very carefully and we will choose the best option for the library district. And for the city, in that we serve our library patrons, ”Hicks said.
“Do we want everything to be perfect and wonderful with everyone?” Sure. But if it doesn’t work like that, it doesn’t work like that.