BLOOMINGTON — A proposal to use the site of the city's parking garage at Market and Monroe streets as a new location for Bloomington Public Library and Connect Transit's downtown bus transfer station apparently lacks political support to move forward.
The idea was raised during the Downtown Task Force's Sept. 5 discussion about potential "catalyst projects" to reinvigorate the city's core, but aldermen gave it a cool reception at Monday night's City Council session.
After Ward 2 Alderman David Sage called the proposal into question, a majority of the aldermen again expressed support for expanding the library at its current site at 205 E. Olive St. rather than moving it closer to downtown.
Sage noted that during a joint meeting of the council and library board of trustees in June, seven of the nine aldermen and Mayor Tari Renner voiced support for staying at the current site near City Hall on the southeast edge of downtown.
"I am both confused and concerned that somehow a new direction is being moved," said Sage on Monday. "But I believe that as we sit here tonight a majority of the council still favors expanding the library where it is."
Sage suggested the council reaffirm that majority opinion "so as to ... not enable and continue the turn that has come up around this topic."
He and four other aldermen — Mboka Mwilambwe of Ward 3, Joni Painter of Ward 5, Karen Schmidt of Ward 6 and Scott Black of Ward 7 — reiterated their support for the library expanding at its current location.
"I do know the parking garage needs to be redone downtown, and I'm all about having a bus transfer station in that building," said Painter. "But I think after we have talked about the library being where it is for so long and then to switch right now, I just don't think that's a good idea, and I think it's a big waste of money."
The task force plans to discuss the issue further at its Sept. 26 meeting, said Ward 4 Alderman Amelia Buragas, who heads the task force created in May to brainstorm ways to move redevelopment downtown forward.
"I think it would a shame at this point to cut that process (of discussing moving the library downtown) off, given it is grounded in our (downtown strategy and comprehensive) plans and looking at the bigger picture," said Buragas.
The library board also plans to discuss the catalyst-project proposal when it meets Sept. 19.
"I haven't heard much from the (library) board, but I think they are kind of waiting to have that discussion next week," said library director Jeanne Hamilton. "I think that we're in the position where we really want to do what's best for the community and part of that is working with the council."
Hamilton attended the council meeting Monday.
"In light of that discussion, we might need to come back together for another joint meeting and just have a discussion and say, 'OK, we're hearing that you want to stick with that decision and that direction made in June,'" said Hamilton. "But what does that mean as far as the next step? What should we do to move forward?"
Ward 9 Alderman Kim Bray, who serves on the nine-member task force along with Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy and Buragas, did not weigh in during Monday's council discussion, but at the task force's earlier meeting she said the council and library board should be consulted to see if a majority favors moving the library to the parking garage site.
Ward 8 Alderman Diana Hauman was sick and did not attend Monday's meeting.
At the joint meeting in June, Buragas and Mathy favored moving the library closer to downtown, but Mathy added he also would accept expanding the library at the current location.
Making the library expansion the downtown catalyst project provides better potential for funding by the city, Buragas contends.