Board, public get first look at smaller design proposal for library expansion

Dave Lein, Editor

Photo by Dave Lein

A packed house was on hand for last Thursday’s Elk Rapids District Library board meeting, where architects, including Tamara Burns, presented a reduced design proposal for the library’s possible expansion.

ELK RAPIDS – Residents, taxpayers, friends and patrons were all on hand for last Thursday’s Elk Rapids District Library board meeting to learn more about the latest design proposal for the current facility’s possible expansion.

Expecting a large crowd, the meeting was moved to Elk Rapids High School. The crowd packed the room to capacity and spilled out into the hallway. On the agenda was the board and public’s first look at a preliminary design for a smaller proposed expansion.

Last November, the Elk Rapids Village Council voted 4-3 to ask the library board to submit another expansion proposal that would not exceed 4,000 square-feet. The original proposal was to add 6,320 square-feet to the current library. Council’s approval is required for the proposal to move forward because the historic facility was bequeathed to and is owned by the village and its residents.

The vote by council followed an extensive campaign by the library board, which has agreed to raise all of the funds – estimated at $3.5 million for the original design – to build the addition.

As part of a public hearing last fall, then library board president Thom Yocum offered a capsule of the steps that led to the board seeking to offer the expansion proposal. He outlined the original donation of $400,000 to the library in 2014 from the Heffer Trust Fund, which was followed by a series of surveys and meetings with community members and leaders seeking input on current and future needs at the library. Additional strategic planning sessions noted that a number of those needs could not be met in the limited space of the current facility (commonly referred to as the “Island House”).

After researching alternatives – including moving some programs to another community facility, adding a branch location or building a new library – the board believed the best alternative was to expand at the current location while preserving the historical integrity of the existing facility.

Ultimately, the board chose the team of architects from Hopkins Burns and Daniels & Zermack because of their experience with historic renovation, preservation and library design. After additional input sessions were held last year, the original preliminary two-story expansion design was developed.

Over the past two years, factions of residents both for and against the expansion have developed. Those in favor of expansion believe additional space and resources are needed to effectively serve patrons of all ages. Those against are adamant that the current facility should not be altered and currently meets the needs of patrons in the seasonal community. They also advocate that other alternatives were not fully explored, and that maintaining the expanded facility would result in added costs to village taxpayers.

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