"Let us talk some more."
That was the message Grove City Mayor Ike Stage had for the Southwest Public Library (SPL) Board of Trustees.
At its regular meeting on Dec. 9, the library trustees voted 5-2 to end discussions with the city of Grove City to relocate the Grove City Library from its current site on Park Street to the yet-to-be developed lumberyard site, which sits behind City Hall.
The city and the library have been negotiating the deal for about two years. According to SPL, the deal involved an exchange of property with Grove City paying for the design and construction of a new library within the lumberyard development, then taking ownership of the current library site.
The city released a memo stating city leader’s disappointment. They want to continue talks to relocate the library into a larger site. Stage said it is important that the community have an up-to-date library.
If the library were to move into the new space, the facility would be owned and operated by the SPL trustees. The city also pledged to help the library to keep relocation expenses neutral.
One current issue facing the Grove City branch is lack of parking space. The city said if the facility were to move, it would be near a 224-car parking garage. At the Dec. 15 meeting, Grove City Council approved a measure to set aside nearly $650,000 to begin engineering for the parking garage.
City leaders said they were planning to convert the current library into a community center and using the surrounding vacant land for future housing. According to the city, the move would provide much needed book, programming and meeting space for the library.
According to SPL, the primary reasons the board decided to end discussions were the declining economy and some board members did not like the condominium concept of the city’s proposal.
The library receives 95 percent of its funding from the state of Ohio. SPL says that the Ohio Library Council has warned them to expect another decline in state funding between 6 percent and 8 percent in 2009.
The trustees were concerned a move into a larger two-story facility would result in additional operating expenses. They said they would need more personnel and security.
SPL has already made drastic cuts to its 2008 budget. This year, the library eliminated two assistant director positions and decided to close the Central Crossing High School Library branch.
SPL also stated that the condominium style concept, proposed by the city, would limit the library’s operational control of the property. In this idea, the library would own space within the building, not the entire facility. Trustees believe the lack of control could pose problems in the future.
The city has asked the library board to give an additional 90 days for all parties to thoroughly research and discuss the options. The city has even offered to sponsor a "field trip" to other communities where a condominium style of ownership is used.
Mo Dion of Stonehenge, the lumberyard developer, said the project can continue without the library though Stage said the relocation is "key" to the redevelopment of the Town Center.
Dion said there were already several retailers interested in setting up shop in the area.
The current library site is 32,000 square feet in size. The new location would provide 40,000 square feet.
The 2008 SPL budget was approximately $4 million and has been declining. Over the past 22 years, voters have rejected seven requests for a property tax levy to supplement state funding.