A Bloomington Public Works Department parking lot at East and Jackson streets used to store heavy equipment is being eyed for expansion of the Bloomington Public Library, which can be seen to the north of the lot.

BLOOMINGTON — Two aldermen voted against a resolution Monday night that supported expanding Bloomington Public Library at its current location and rejected calls by some downtown advocates to move it to the Market Street parking deck site. 

Aldermen Amelia Buragas of Ward 4 and Scott Black of Ward 7 cast the dissenting votes on a resolution endorsing library trustees' unanimous decision Feb. 20 to expand at the current location, 205 E. Olive St.

The resolution, called at the request of Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt, does not include a commitment of city money. 

Black said he wasn't interested in expanding the library at its current site or at a different location.

"From my perspective O'Neil (Park) pool is a much higher priority to me than the library," said Black. "The library is in a functional building. O'Neil pool is threatened with not being able to be opened within this year. We are well past (its) life."

Buragas said that while she supports the library expanding, she felt it was premature to vote on the resolution without more information about the project, including cost details.

In September, the Downtown Task Force, chaired by Buragas, 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.

Another joint meeting on Jan. 16 with the library, City Council and the Connect Transit board did not alter six Bloomington aldermen's support for expanding the library where it is. 

Buragas wanted to delay the decision until the council receives a report that Stacey Tutt, a professor with the University of Illinois College of Law's Community Preservation Clinic, was having her students put together based on information from the Jan. 18 meeting.

"I am concerned that we as a council are not showing that we are open to listening to others and to take in information," she said. "I am a little bit confused as to why we could not be respectful of the amount of time that the students have put into that report and to the very last at least wait for it before bringing it up as an agenda item."

Ward 3 Alderman Mboka Mwilambwe responded: "I was at that meeting. I didn't learn anything new. I didn't learn anything earth-shattering, so I am not expecting anything out of that report.

"I am in full support (of the expansion resolution) because I think we need to give the library board some closure. We need to move forward," he added.

Building on a vision Renner put forward in 2015 for a library expansion at its current site, the city spent nearly $500,000 to purchase the old Sugar Creek Packing Plant to the south of the library and demolish it and an adjacent city-owned building with an eye toward an expanded library campus.

The library board also has paid more than $80,000 to the Farnsworth Group to conduct a feasibility study and provide three conceptual site plans for expanding the library at its current site. 

In other action, the council voted 6-2 to table for 60 days voting on rebating $135,000 in sales tax to Habitat For Humanity of McLean County.

The rebate would support the purchase and installation of a new solar panel system at the expanded HFH ReStore, 1402-1406 W. Washington St.

While Ward 8 Alderman Diana Hauman said she favors the work Habitat does in providing affordable housing in the community, she was concerned "because we're in a budget crunch and our sales tax is flat already. And does this set a precedent for other nonprofits or for-profits who come to us for the same kind of incentive?"

At press deadline, the council still was considering three previously discussed proposals to help close the last part of a $2.9 million deficit for the $208 million budget that will take effect May 1. 

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Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle


Bloomington Reporter

Bloomington reporter for The Pantagraph.

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