BLOOMINGTON — The Bloomington Public Library board voted officially and unanimously Tuesday in favor of expanding the library at its current location and rejecting calls by some downtown advocates to move to the Market Street parking deck site.
"It's exciting to a have a resolution and a clear path forward after so many years of questions and so much research going into it," said library trustee Van Miller after the vote that affirmed the board's straw poll last month.
The resolution drafted by library Executive Director Jeanne Hamilton at the board's direction noted there have been 18 years of library expansion conversations, community focus groups, paid studies and plans.
The resolution is merely an expression of the library board's intent to pursue the library expansion and does not create any obligation to proceed with the project, said Hamilton.
During a joint meeting of the City Council and library board in June, seven of the nine aldermen and Mayor Tari Renner voiced support for keeping the library at the current site, 205 E. Olive St., near City Hall on the southeast edge of downtown.
But in September, the Downtown Task Force proposed a project, seen as a catalyst for downtown economic development, to replace the aging, city-owned Market Street parking deck with a structure housing a new library, a Connect Transit bus transfer station and public parking. The proposal was the centerpiece of a report the task force approved Oct. 24.
"Our hope is that (this resolution) will aid in moving the project forward," said Miller. "There seemed to be some confusion and some ongoing discussion, and we're trying to at least signal from our board as strongly as we can what our intentions are and our willingness to do what it takes to see this project through."
"I think it's been a long time coming," said board President Alex Cardona. "I think it helps to let the city and the community know where the board thinks strategically we'd like to be for the next 10, 15, 30 years."
Depending on which concept is selected, estimated costs to expand the current facility or construct a new building at the current site range from $21 million to $31 million.
As part of moving the expansion forward, the board also unanimously voted Tuesday night to pay the Farnsworth Group another $14,850 to provide additional site planning services. In 2015, the library board approved paying Farnsworth more than $80,000 to provide three conceptual site plans for expansion at its current site.
"Specifically, what we're looking at is building out this comprehensive site plan ... that is going to show the phases, the cost, the timelines so the City Council understands what this could look like and what it is looking to support over the next three, five, 10, 15 years," said Cardona.
Last month, the board voted 7-2 to reject an earlier version of the Farnsworth proposal approved Tuesday night.
The amended contract the board approved takes into account some of the feedback trustees had, including addressing specifically the phasing, cost and timelines, said Cardona.