Millage for library expansion will be on Aug. 7 primary election ballot
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A millage proposal targeted at enhancing services and access to the Devereaux Memorial Crawford County Library in Grayling will be decided by voters in August.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners agreed to put a proposal on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot for the expansion and renovation of the main library serving Crawford County residents.
County Administrator Paul Compo and Crawford County Treasurer Joe Wakeley were directed to work with bond counsel to dictate the exact ballot language for the funding proposal.
According to a five-year needs assessment, the library served 11,243 patrons in 2017 compared to 6,863 patrons in 2012. Internet and Wifi usage increased from 2,474 patrons in 2012 to 16,490 patrons in 2017. Access to items through the inter-library loan program also doubled in the same time frame.
Twenty-one different groups utilize the library’s conference room for meetings. Over a dozen library functions and programs are hosted in the conference room throughout the year.
A planned building addition on the east side of the building would have a conference room, with a folding wall, to create a meeting space for large groups and events. The check out and circulation desk will be located in that area with a teen area located in view of library staff. The director’s office would also be moved to that part of the building.
Another meeting room would be built on the west side of the building for use by groups who would meet outside the library’s normal operating house. The room would have its own bathroom facilities to ensure the security of the library.
The existing conference room will be converted into a classroom space where technology programs will be provided to patrons. The existing director’s office would be converted into a tutoring room for homeschooled and college students.
The space where archives and genealogical records are stored would be expanded to allow people to study their family’s history and involvement in the community.
A family bathroom would be created in the building for parents to use with their infants and toddlers.
Fifty-two parking spots would be created around the building, in addition to six additional handicapped parking spaces, and a parking area for library staff. Patron safety was identified as an issue since the library shares its parking lot with the Grayling Elementary School.
“Whenever the school has events, we have no parking,” said Lynnette Corlew, the vice president for the Crawford County Library Systems Board of Trustees.
The library was built in 2001. Leslie C. Devereaux donated $500,000 to the community in order to get the library built. She wanted to honor her grandfather, William Devereaux, and father, Richard Devereaux, who were avid readers, fly fishermen, and sportsmen who started coming to the Grayling area in the 1920s.
In turn, local taxpayers approved a $1.5 million bond issue to cover the remaining cost for the building. The bonds for building the library have been paid off.
Devereaux has continued her philanthropy to support technology enhancements and maintenance of the building.
“It’s really important to her that we be on the cutting edge, so she’s very interested in the technology aspect,” said Debra Friedman, the president of the Crawford County Library Systems Board of Trustees.
Library officials have kept Devereaux informed about the expansion plans, and will meet with her soon to show the architectural renderings.
“She is very much invested in this project,” Friedman said.
The estimated cost for the building and renovation expansions is about $3 million.
“We rounded it up to $3 million to give us a cushion,” Corlew said. “We don’t have to use if we don’t need it.”
Wakeley said a .66 of a mill would allow the county to issue $3 million in bonds at a 5 percent interest rate over 15 years to fund the library project.
The operating millage for the library and its branch libraries is currently levied at .4558 of a mill, which expires in 2020.
Since the library has a significant fund balance, Wakeley said county officials would not have to seek additional operating costs when a renewal is placed before voters.
“With $3 million, they can build it, but they have the funds to operate it and maintain it without having to ask for additional operating millage,” Wakeley said.
Corlew confirmed that position.
“We can operate with what the community is giving us,” she said.
George Stancil, whose family has owned and operated the Rialto Theatre in Grayling since 1915, has taken on the role as treasurer for a committee which will educate the public regarding the millage proposal.
With growth in the national economy, Stancil said the time is ripe to move forward with the project as federal officials contemplate raising interest rates.
“The longer you delay, and especially in today’s economic environment, I think the greater the risk is we’re going to be looking at an increased need, and then increased cost because the upwards pressure on interest rates,” Stancil said.
Dave Stephenson, the chairman of the Crawford Board of Commissioners, agreed that the proposal should go on ballot in August so it does not compete with other funding issues.
“The timing of this is going to be critical,” Stephenson said.
Renewals to fund the Crawford County Sheriff’s 24-hour road patrol and for the Crawford County Veterans Service office will also go before voters this year. Wakeley said those proposals could go on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, and can still be placed on the winter tax rolls to keep funding for those operations coming into the county coffers.
Paul Lerg, a retired Crawford AuSable School District teacher and administrator, has volunteered to serve as chairman of the committee which will promote the library millage.
“I have been just impressed with the number of people that use the library, depending on the time of day,” he said.
Lerg specifically recognized the library for offering help with patrons’ use of computers and how to navigate through the technology on hand.
“We’re fortunate that we have the staff that are very helpful,” Lerg said.