The Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees has targeted November 2016 as the date for a referendum asking voters to approve a bond issue to help build a new building. Experts have told the library officials that a high-turnout election, such as the presidential election that will be held on Nov. 8, 2016, would offer the best opportunity to get a bond issue approved.
At the library board’s monthly meeting on May 27, trustees listened to a presentation from two leaders of Unicom-ARC, a St. Louis-based consulting firm that specializes in helping school boards and other governmental bodies pass referendums.
“Things do better in high turnout elections,” said Unicom-ARC President Rod Wright. “‘No’ voters are more motivated to vote [in low-turnout elections].”
Library board President Jennifer Perry said the target date for a referendum is November 2016, but nothing is final yet.
“That’s the goal right now, but it could change,” Perry said.
Unicom-ARC worked on the successful 2006 Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 building bond referendum campaign, which was approved for the renovation and expansion of RBHS. Unicom-ARC did not worked on the failed 2011 RBHS referendum campaign.
The firm would not be hired by the library, but it could be hired by the campaign committee called Growing Your Library, which was formed last year to advocate for the passage of a library referendum.
Growing Your Library has a cash balance of $4,949.98 and has raised no money since it was formed. That will probably change in the not too distant future.
Wright and Dan Burns of Unicom-ARC said the campaign committee should start fundraising as soon as possible.
At last week’s meeting the library board voted 6 to 0 (Trustee Judy Sweet was absent) to approve the final plans for the proposed new library, which would be built on land the library has purchased across Lincoln Avenue from the present library.
The plans will now go before the village for final approval. The Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to hold a public hearing about the final plans at its July 23 meeting.
The final plans are for a two-story building with a full basement. The new plan is slightly scaled down from what the library initially proposed. The plans approved by the library board last week call for a Prairie Style building of approximately 33,000 square feet in size, down from the approximately 39,000 square feet building initially proposed in 2012.
“It’s a much better plan than we’ve had before,” Perry said. “It’s been tweaked. It’s vastly improved. They got rid of the grand staircase. It’s much more practical.”
The setback on the north end of the property has been increased in response to concerns of neighbors who live just north of the proposed site.
“There’s quite a bit more space between the library building and the neighbors that are to the north,” said Kimberly Coughran, the director of the Brookfield Public Library.
The height of the building was also reduced. Plans call for windows to be shielded and slanted so that those in the library would not be able to look directly into the homes of those living just east of the proposed building.
Coughran said the library board is still seeking feedback from community members about the final design.
“The feedback process is still not complete,” Coughran said.
In December 2012, the Brookfield Village Board gave preliminary approval to the library’s Planned Unit Development application and gave the library five years to obtain final approval.
The estimated cost of the proposed design is about $15 million. The library board will probably seek to borrow about $10 million with its referendum. The library currently has almost $3.8 million in a capital reserves fund and hopes to add another $400,000 to $500,000 to that fund by November 2016, Coughran said.
“I would like it to it to impact taxpayers as little as possible,” said Perry, who added that she hopes the referendum amount could be held to $10 million or less.