Brookfield Library pumps brakes on addition

Majority of trustees unhappy with most recent plan

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

The Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees is pulling back from the most recent expansion plan presented to them. 

At a special meeting on July 9, several library board members voiced reservations and some expressed outright opposition to a plan to spend $8.7 million to construct an 11,700-square-foot addition along Lincoln Avenue.

"I don't like this plan," said Trustee Jennifer Perry. "I feel like we're on the verge of squandering a lot of money on a plan that doesn't really work."

Many board members said that the expansion plan seemed to try to shoehorn too many things into too small a place, leaving the building still cramped.

"Plans have been painted with a broad brush, and I think it needs to be refined," said Trustee Dianne Duner.

Board members also were hesitant about putting millions of dollars into a 32-year-old building.

"I'm worried we are sinking our future into a building which is wrought with problems," said Trustee Jeanne McTeague.

Trustee Carol Kissane, who was on the library board when the present building was constructed, also was hesitant about adding on to the current building.

"It just breaks my heart that we have to build an addition on an old building," Kissane said. "That can open a can of worms. I really would like a building we can be proud of."

Library Director Kimberly Coughran and trustees have wanted a new library building for more than a decade, but a 2016 referendum to sell bonds to raise the money to build a new facility was defeated. 

"It breaks my heart that the referendum didn't pass," Kissane said.

Since then, library officials have been trying to figure out what to do. In 2012, the library bought the Brookfield United Methodist Church across Lincoln Avenue from the library for $615,000. 

They tore down the church, leaving a vacant lot covered with grass. That is where they hoped to build a new library. After the referendum failed, library officials considered other options. 

Earlier this year they were presented a plan to build an addition across Lincoln Ave. Library officials liked that plan, which would have required closing off Lincoln Avenue, but Brookfield Village President Kit Ketchmark made it clear that the village board would not permit Lincoln Avenue to be closed, which led the present plan.

Library board President Linda Kampschroeder was the most supportive of the current plan, saying it would be a vast improvement to the current cramped building.

"It will be make a huge difference and the library will function a lot better," Kampschroeder said. "It will be like night and day as far as what we have right now."

But Kampschroeder, like other board members, was not ready to borrow the $4 million or so it would take to do the expansion right now. Currently, the library has a little more than $5.2 million in reserves.

"I do think the way we are right now, we can't afford this," Kampschroeder said. "I am not comfortable with borrowing that far out."

Trustees said that they would not be comfortable taking out a long-term loan to help pay for an addition. They said that they would only be comfortable taking out a loan they could pay back in five to seven years.

Some board members said they would be more comfortable with a scaled down expansion plan closer to the $6 million amount trustees had originally intended to spend.

"I'm of the opinion that you can do a lot for that amount of money," said Trustee Adam Burghgraef.

Some trustees felt that it was time to spend some of the library's reserves to improve the library.

"It's time to move," said Trustee Michelle Svensden. "We haven't given residents anything new in a long time."

While board members appear to be moving away from the current plan, Coughran, Kampschroeder and the library's architects still plan on meeting with Jay Dalicandro, the village of Brookfield's interim management consultant, on July 23 to gauge the village's reaction to the current plan.

However, no action is imminent. One option is to just wait and continue building reserves until the library reserve fund can fund any addition, or perhaps eventually a new building. 

Library officials also want to see if a new foundation formed to raise money can provide significant sums from some big donors. 

But, nothing seems likely to happen soon.  

"I feel like we've just been going around in circles," Kissane said.

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