Several Vandalia area residents and a few city officials packed the Ed French Memorial Library during a Mexico-Audrain County Library District meeting held last week to express concerns about a facility in Vandalia.
Nearly 20 area residents attended the meeting to discuss concerns on the size of the facility as land was purchased in June for $40,000 as the district closes on it by the end of July.
The sale was contingent on an environmental study which did show signs of asbestos at the proposed location, the former home to Tri-County Building Supply across from the current Vandalia Library facility.
“It’s hard to get started on a project like this,” said Mexico-Audrain County Library District Director Kathy Kephart. “We couldn’t do it until we have the space. We couldn’t get the space until the bank, we got together and decided, and then we had to make sure to get space that wasn’t astronomical as far as cleanup. So that’s exactly where we’re at right now.”
Vandalia Branch Library Manager Crystal McCurdy was present at the meeting.
She first thanked the board for all they do and their work on the project before sharing some concerns.
“A new building needs to be more than what we now have so we can continue providing the same services and provide a meeting room that we do not have,” she said.
She noted that besides having books, the local library also has DVDs, books on CD, eBooks, six public internet computers, wifi, and it faxes documents for patrons.
McCurdy also said about 78 students par-ticipate in youth programs. The library is also used by Summer School students in which there were about 66 kids and nine adults at the location.
She said when folks are using the facility for meetings, it is conflicting with other patrons who are trying to use services in the same area.
“To have children’s programs of that size, we need a meeting room,” said McCurdy, who also said adults seek room to meet at the library as well.
Job organizations and Army recruiters also utilize the facility, among others. McCurdy, noted the current library is approximately 4,350 sq. foot in counting both floors.
It was noted that the current facility was constructed in 1957 and received paint and carpet upstairs in 1990. She also said the facility has not been upgraded in the last 26 years.
After talking about a funds issue from the district’s April meeting, she then referenced a press released published on June 15 in “The Vandalia Leader.”
She noted a paragraph showing the size of the library being dependant on the funding available and the needs of the community. The same paragraph said “the American Library Association has determined the appropriate square footage needed for public libraries, based on an area’s population.”
McCurdy then read a quote from Director Kephart. Kephart said “we will acknowledge the recommendation of the ALA, while also adding space needed to meet the Americans With Disabilities Act requirements…The new library might not be quite as large as the present one, but the space will be used much more effectively.”
McCurdy said she wanted to know what the formula was that ALA used in determining the square footage needed.
After looking it up on a website, it was noted that the ALA no longer sets the standards, which are from the 1970s.
It does say ALA will help with benchmarks and a fact sheet to help with the process.
City of Vandalia Alderman Doug Bontz said he was trying to figure out the rational of purchasing a property instead of using property that has nothing on it.
Board members noted that property had been sought for about a year and didn’t receive other options.
It was noted that the district’s lawyer said a building should not be constructed where the district does not own the land.
City of Vandalia Mayor Ralph Kuda said the city didn’t really have a lot big enough. He also said the city is not in the business of selling property though the CSI building was offered.
Location and costs were noted as reasons the district didn’t proceed with the CSI building location.
Mayor Kuda said the city will help the library when it comes time to move.
It was noted by the library district that 5,000 square footage was the smallest entertained in the proposal process though it may be backed off a bit on that size.
It was also noted that the National Institute of Building Sciences is what the ALA refers districts to in making determinations.
“We couldn’t go off ALA like the paper stated right now…,” said board member Aggie Deimeke, though the article was a submitted press release from the district. “Our biggest guideline is the funds we have available.”
It was noted the cost from contractors is $120-$150 dollars per square foot is available.
“We do not have unlimited funds,” Deimeke said. “We as a library district is giving a lot to Vandalia…We have not given anything to Laddonia. We have not given anything to Martinsburg, We have not given anything to Farber. We have to determine what our budget is and the space is according to what the money is.”
One approximate cost shows 3,000 sq. foot being about $500,000 and there are also environmental studies, demolition costs, and more.
It was noted the city could decide to donate money or citizens could to the cause. McCurdy added that letters were sent out in regards to those who donated to the YMCA Project on behalf of the library as there was an option for funds to be diverted to the library upon request.
Mary Orr, of Vandalia, noted a concern on a lack of communication during the process.
“The citizens of Vandalia are very much interested in that library,” Orr said.
Orr asked how big the Laddonia facility was to give a perspective of what is needed in Vandalia.
It was noted the board had $600,000 in funds.
Orr said this should be a good starting point. She first noted that some people in the meeting have not received a letter and perhaps some dollars could be available to go towards strictly the library project as those donating it may have wanted the dollars to go towards it.
Kephart said there is still no decision on the square footage needed in Vandalia as the district just reached the level of purchasing property for the new facility.
No decisions on square footage have been made as of yet.
McCurdy was complimentary of the help received on the facility by the City of Vandalia though it is noted the building was falling down as the process started in 2011.
She noted there were more than 4,200 square foot and a meeting room going to be established at the YMCA.
“Well the library was not ever part of that project, we were not,” Deimeke said. “…We never did vote or have any kind of say.”
Deimeke also said only the Mexico location owns its building but the other locations are being rented. Deimeke said many folks were “in shock” when the library “pulled out.”
“We never pulled out, we were never in it,” she added.
Deimeke noted that, like in Martinsburg, if a new building was going to be put there, the library would move to it when they were told to.
McCurdy noted that the former library district director was a part of the YMCA meetings.
“We were never a part of it, we never voted on anything,” Deimeke said.
Board member Bob Fenlon said no compromises would be needed if both the YMCA and the library district built their own buildings.
Deimeke noted concerns of the library district lawyer in giving money to a facility that the library would not own.
She noted that rental of the building would go from $300 to about $1,200 a month.
She also said there was a request of $500,000 to be given by the district for the then YMCA/Library Project.
“We want Vandalia to have a library,” said Deimeke, and those present applauded her statement.
Kephart said Vandalia residents need to “talk up the issue” to possibly donate to the new library location.
Fenlon said Central Bank of Audrain County is helping the district. The bank is giving back $10,000 of the $40,000 purchase price by the end of the year and is pledging to give $10,000 a year for a total of three years.
Kephart said demolition and asbestos removal may cost about $60,000, which leads to about $100,000 being spent but still no building.
At the beginning of the meeting, a brief introduction was given by current district board members. Soon after the board approved bills and previous meeting minutes.
Statistic numbers were also briefly discussed showing strong circulation in all branch locations.
There were about 17,000 check outs in all the districts with Vandalia having about 3,500.
Other numbers included Mexico being 11,000-12,000, Farber with 450-500, Martinsburg about 800, and Laddonia about 590 though it was 532 the last month. It was noted the district is on par with its budget for the year.