Plainfield Library referenda fail

Photo by Jonathan Samples | Enterprise Staff Plainfield Library considers November referendum, following failed March 15 referenda.

By Andrea Earnest | Enterprise Staff

Plainfield voters rejected two referenda last week that would have allowed the Plainfield Library to move forward with a proposed expansion of its current facility.

The questions asked residents whether the library should issue a 20-year, $39 million building bond in order to build a new 72,000-square-foot library and if it should increase its limiting rate by 19 percent.

Unofficial totals from the Will County Election Commission showed that 10,237 voters, or 55.67 percent, opposed the bond question, while 8,152 voters, or 44.33 percent, favored the funding option for a proposed library expansion. Similarly, 12,593 voters, or 69.25 percent, said “no” to increasing the limiting rate, while 5,592 voters, or 30.75 percent, said “yes.”

The referenda would have increased the property taxes of a $300,000 home by $192.89, according to the library.

In a brief statement issued March 15 after it became clear the referenda had failed, the library thanked Plainfield voters and said that there will be several events that residents can attend for more information about the library’s next steps.

“During National Library Week in April, four open house events will provide residents with an opportunity to express their opinions and priorities for the library’s next steps,” the library said in a statement. “Based on the “Libraries Transform” theme for National Library Week, the open houses will also offer the opportunity to discover how the Library can help you grow and change through online learning, job and career services, ESL clubs, book discussion groups, technology training and much more.”

Open house are scheduled April 11, April 13, April 15 and April 16.

Bill and Linda Hanley, who serve as co-chairs for Citizens for a 21st Century Library, said the committee worked hard to get the word out about the referenda.

“While we were not ultimately successful in accomplishing our mission for the Plainfield Public Library, it was not for lack of effort,” the couple said in an email.

The library board of trustees held a meeting March 16, the day following the primary, where staff and officials discussed possible next steps.

“At [the meeting], the library board of trustees determined their course of action for the next month, leaving open a possible referendum in November,” Library Director Julie Milavec said.

She added that the trustees will go on a “listening tour,” where they will make contact with each individual or organization identified on the community contacts and stakeholders list.

The results of this tour will inform the next step, which Milavec said could include reworking plan A (the referendum) to go back on the ballot in November, to rework plan A for an April 2017 referendum or to begin the full planning process for plan B.

Previously, the library has stated that referenda also would have helped cover needed repairs. In order to perform those repairs without increasing its available funds, the library said it would need to cut 20 percent of its operating budget.

An estimated $10 million is needed to replace and upgrade various library systems, which would also reduce area available for public spaces. The library was also built before the American Disabilities Act, meaning that upgrades are required to bring the building into ADA compliance.

During National Library Week in April, open house events will provide the opportunity for residents to express their priorities and thoughts for the library’s next steps.

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