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Library, park boards explain plans at public meeting

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

About 25 local residents attended a meeting recently to learn about the Evans Public Library District’s plan to build sometime in the future a new facility on land now owned by the Vandalia Park District.
Mark Miller, president of the park board, served as moderator for the meeting held at the library, which he said was being held to get residents’ opinions on the preliminary proposal to use the land now housing Evans Youth Center for a new library.
Miller explained that the library board has begun making long-term plans for a new library, “and they can’t go forward without a secure location.”
He said the library board would seek grants to help fund a building project, and that it can’t apply for those grants without holding legal ownership of the property on which a building would be constructed.
The library board approached the park district board about the possibility of someday building a new library on the land at Eighth and Randolph streets, where the youth center – commonly known as the Scout House – sits.
Miller said he likes that idea. “In my mind, if there’s going to be a new library, that’s right where that building should be.”
The Scout House, he said, “is in bad shape,” noting that the building has severe problems with termites and mold.
“It probably could be repaired,” Miller said, but an architect “led us to believe it would take many, many, many thousands of dollars.”
He said the park district, through a trust established by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Evans, receives $1,000-$3,000 annually in oil royalties. But utility costs exceed those royalties, he said.
“That doesn’t include repairs and mowing,” Miller said. “Every year, our costs have gone up and our revenues have gone down.
“The thing that brought this to a head was when we found mold.  We decided, ‘We have to get the kids out of there.’ Then, we had a water leak,” he said.

He also said that the park district has worked with the Scouts to get them into the former Lincoln School for their meetings, and that they appear to be pleased with those accommodations.
Even if the Scout House was rehabilitated, Miller said, “It apparently is not large enough for what they (Scouts) want to have.
“The building has probably outlived its usefulness,” he said.
Marti Bingham, president of the library district board, said the board is excited about the long-term plan to build at that site. “It’s centrally located, and our building consultant thinks it’s a good piece of property.”
When asked how much a new building would cost, Bingham said, “We haven’t gotten that far yet,” emphasizing that the library board has only begun looking into a building project.
Bingham said there is no timetable set for such a project, but the library board has discussed constructing a building that would allow for improved services for library users while also providing a meeting place for Scout troops and community groups.
Miller said he feels good about turning the land over to the library district for a new building, due to the fact that the Evanses donated funds to build the current library and also donated the land at Eighth and Randolph streets to the park district.
It’s a natural tie, he said, and something he supports, as long as residents also feel good about the transaction.
“All we want to do is what’s best for the community,” Miller said.
Chuck Hutson, a member of both the library board and park district board, asked those present to voice their opinions.
Most of those present spoke in favor of the land transaction.
“I’m all in favor of a bigger and better space for a library,” said John David Greer.
“I’m all for it,” added Greer’s wife, Betty.
Steve Bohner spoke the same words. “In fact, when do we start the fundraisers (for the library)? We have to look at the long term; the longer we wait, the more it’s going to costs.”
Janet Potts, a retired teacher, said she visits many libraries for storytelling programs and has seen what a new library would offer. “I think it would be wonderful to have a big, new library.”
Sandy Peyton said that she has “mixed feelings.
“I was a Scout leader, and my mother was a Scout leader,” Peyton said.
But, she said, “I understand that there are only so many times a day it (Scout House) can be used. It isn’t usable to all Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.
“I think this is probably the best thing, though I do hate to see it torn down,” Peyton said.
Roger Hill said he was “undecided – why I’m here. Probably my main concern would be the funding (for a new library). I don’t have any issue with the use of the land.”
Joanna Helm, a library board trustee, said that some people believe that libraries are “outdated.
“But it’s more than just books – it’s computers, magazines, newspapers, events for children. Our usage doesn’t go down; it goes up,” Helm said.
Miller asked for comments from Andy Craig, due to the fact that Craig had voiced to Miller some concerns about the proposal.
“The biggest problem I have is, who dropped the ball and allowed (the Scout House) to get so bad?” Craig asked.
Randy Edwards responded, saying that while he was serving on the park board more than a decade ago, there was a fire at the Scout House, and it was at that time that park board members began to recognize some serious issues with the building.
Miller added that the park board had the building sprayed for termites, only to find during an inspection a year later that the problem still existed. “Other than spraying, I don’t know what you’d do.”
Near the close of the meeting, Jack Johnston, attorney for the park district, said, “The park district feels responsible for the proper use of the land.”
He said that the park board and library board are looking into ways that the park district could turn the land over to the library district, with an agreement including an “automatic reverter clause” that would give the land back to the park district if the library district doesn’t take on a building project.
“It would have to be worked out who would be responsible to maintain the property” after it was given to the library district, Johnston said.