The Marengo City Council approved the rezoning of the Marengo-Union Library District building to 19714 E. Grant Highway in Marengo, at the city council meeting on April 11 in city hall.
Jay Filler, a member of the library board, said that 20 years ago, the Marengo-Union Public Library District became a district and bought the former Wisted’s grocery store building.
“It was an increase in size from the previous library of about five times; and we need to do it again,” Filler said. “Not necessarily five times bigger, but we need to increase the size of the library. We had a study done in 2002 that concluded that the library, at that time, should more appropriately be about 26,000 square-feet. Obviously, the population has increased and the users have increased; so we need space. Last year, we loaned out about 115,000 books, and had 18,000 computer users. So, especially in the last three to five years, we have been looking to enlarge. We have looked at virtually every building in Marengo that was a possibility. The Miceli building is basically the only alternative we found that could work. We believe it’s the only likely alternative that could work for the foreseeable future.”
Filler said the library needs more space for parking; shelf space; larger and more easily accessed meeting rooms; rooms that will not interfere with the rest of the library patrons; and more space for computers. He said the reason the Miceli building would work for the library is that it’s 30,000 square-feet; and that, “20,000 is what the library district is looking to convert in the immediate future.” Filler said the library is getting the building for $40 a square-foot.
“We’ve only done a concept plan at this point,” Filler said. “We are considering moving the entrance to the east side of the building, with the ideas that we could use the same amount of staff to monitor a 20,000 square-foot building. Basically, the rest of the library would be open with the exception of the meeting rooms and the activity rooms. We have talked about the option of putting some windows in. We can cut windows into those walls. The building is well-constructed.”
Filler said the library district’s original goal was to stay in the downtown area.
“We looked at every possible site in the downtown area, and the result was we couldn’t find one,” he said. “There isn’t a site that will easily be converted to a library [in the downtown].”
Pam Woodruff, a Marengo resident, said there was a signed petition of 700 residents that wanted to see the library remain in the downtown area.
“I’m a fourth generation Marengoen,” Woodruff said. “I have watched Marengo grow and the town wither. My heart wants the library to stay in town.” Woodruff said one of the standards rezoning must meet is that it, “will not be detrimental to or endanger the comfort or general welfare of the community,” Dorothy Otis, a Marengo resident, said the zoning change request [was] not in harmony with the objectives of the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
“Libraries are located downtown and for good reasons,” Otis said. “Your actions this evening could be in total conflict of the goals of the downtown TIF District, by removing this downtown destination from other highly-used downtown destinations. Approving this zoning change request will definitely upset the welfare of the residents, especially with gasoline nearing the cost that it is today, and without the safety of downtown lighting and sidewalks. Who’s affected the most will be those who can least afford the extravagance of relocating for the purpose of additional space, only.”
Keck Mowry, Pastor of the Marengo United Methodist Church in Marengo, said he has an interest in the church community he serves, which has, “located and invested in being a community ministry in the downtown area.”
“We highly value the library because it’s the center of the community,” Mowry said. “I’ve been in a lot of communities that destroy their communities—they have no center. They disperse everything everywhere. When you start dissecting this center from your community, you’re making a mistake. It will impact on not only the churches, but a wider community, by not having a center. I speak against taking a crucial part of the community and placing it in a place where we have no access for our community ministry.”
Corey Brackmann, an alderman for the city, said he personally wishes there could have been more community input prior to the library board’s decision.
Mayor Don Lockhart said it was a decision that was made by the library board, within the library board’s authority as elected members.
“If people have a problem with that, they should [have dealt] with the library board,” Lockhart said. “I wouldn’t want the library board coming here in front of the city council and dictating to us. Even though it’s good will on the part of all the people, I think they forget that we’re only here for the zoning issue. We’re not here to say whether the library should be 5,000, 10,000, or 20,000 square-feet, or if it should be located here or there. I, for one, do not believe that it would be in my authority as the Mayor of Marengo to go over their heads and say they can’t move wherever they voted. I believe it’s not within our authority—our authority is strictly on a zoning issue here.”
Gene Carroccia, owner of Bobby’s Shoe Store in Marengo, said he believes there should be lighted sidewalks put in that connect all the way to the new library location, and also be continuous down East Grant Highway.
Alderman Steve DiMaria made a motion for the rezoning with conditions. The motion for the rezoning was seconded by Alderman Michael Smith.
“[For] the safety of the public, the sidewalks that were discussed with Mr. Filler, who was speaking on behalf of the library board, will be put in at the south frontage of the property and the north rear of the property to Lindow Lane,” DiMaria said. “Also, a condition that the library will work with our building commissioner to put in necessary lighting, [per the ordinances], that would be necessary for the sidewalks; and to talk to the conservation district to see if it’s m the HUM Trail to the library.”