By Bob Uphues
After a year of laying the groundwork for the next phase of action, the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees announced last week that it was assembling a Facilities Advisory Committee.
That committee will be instrumental in developing final plans for a new library and a strategy for financing its construction. Library Director Kimberly Coughran said the goal is to have the committee in place by March.
"The board hasn't set a minimum or maximum number for the committee yet," said Coughran, "but the expectation is that the committee will meet monthly over 2014, starting in March."
When 2014 wraps up, the expectation is that the library board will have a firm plan in place for a new library to pitch to the public. And the Facilities Advisory Committee is critical to creating a plan that the public will accept, said library board President Jennifer Mack Perry.
"We need the input," said Perry. "This is a big job and it affects the community as a whole."
The library board began its quest to build a new library nearly two years ago when it announced plans to purchase Brookfield United Methodist Church, which sat across Lincoln Avenue from the present library.
In December 2012, the Brookfield village board approved the library's preliminary planned development application. Part of that approval was a provision granting the library a seven-year window to develop and gain approval for final plans.
The library also finally purchased the church property and demolished the church building in the summer of 2013. The library board wants a new facility to be built on the former church land.
If the Facilities Advisory Committee does complete a final plan for the library by the end of the year, the library could begin the final planned development process in 2015. The matter would first go before the village's newly formed Planning and Zoning Commission before heading back to the village board for final approval.
Should the library gain final approval of the plan from the village board, it would then be up to the library board to win the approval of the community. Initially, library officials estimated that building a new library would cost between $9.5 and $12 million. As a result, the community is likely to be asked to support a tax referendum to raise a portion of the construction funding.
Exactly how much the community will be asked to bear depends on how much the final design will cost and how much money the library board is able to save along the way.
As far as final costs go, library officials have signaled that they will be scaling back the plan that received preliminary approval in December 2012.
"We are looking to scale it back somewhat, keeping in mind the effects it will have on the immediate neighbors and cost-wise," Perry said. "We're balancing all these needs with what our fiscal constraints are."
The library has been saving money for the new building in recent years, transferring about $500,000 annually in tax money raised for general operating purposes to a special reserve fund.
In addition, the library in 2013 sold a property on Arden Avenue for another $295,000, which went into the special fund. According to Coughran, the library's special reserve fund stands at about $3 million.
The push to finalize a design for a new library comes during the library's 100th anniversary, which will be celebrated throughout 2014. A special Centennial Day celebration is planned for June 27 on the former church property. Details of that celebration are still pending.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the Facilities Advisory Committee is asked to contact Library Director Kimberly Coughran at 708-485-6917, ext. 121, or by email at email@example.com.