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Bay County Library Millage - Answers You Want finds answers to frequently asked library questions

September 16, 2007       Leave a Comment
By: Stephen Kent

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The staff at reads the Bay City Times too. We pay close attention to the letters to the editor in "The People's Forum". The upcoming Library Millage election has brought some of the most heated comments. Writers also ask questions and some state as fact things that don't seem right.

MyBayCity readers seem to be overwhelmingly in favor of the Library millage. We hear from very few people who intend to vote no. Still, in an effort to help everyone, we decided to try to find the facts behind the issues.

A letter in the September 16 Times questioned the decision to build a new building rather than expand Bay City Branch Library. It also lamented the loss of two established businesses, which were purchased and torn down to make room for the new main library.

We talked to several current and past players in the decision making process asking:  
    Why didn't you choose to expand the old central library?

The answer we got was that in the early 1990's the plan was, in fact, to expand existing main library.

Library staff and management conducted a needs assessment, prepared conceptual designs, and surveyed neighboring property owners. "I'm sure these records, studies and designs still exist in the library's archives" said former Library Director Linda Heemstra.

The studies found many reasons why expanding Bay City Branch was not practical. Participants recalled a number of the findings:
  • A large addition would destroy the historic nature of the 9,000 sq. ft. building.

  • The high volume of traffic into the residential neighborhood was a safety concern.

  • parking would require six homes to be acquired and demolished.

  • The city would need to close sixth street between Jackson and Monroe or build a skywalk from the parking lot to the library.

  • Building a barrier free addition would be complex and costly due to the design of the old Carnegie Library.

  • The main entrance would need to be shifted to a side or rear location.

  • It was unclear that the Michigan State Historic Preservation Division would provide required approvals.
Anders Dahlgren, an American Library Association certified library space planner from Wisconsin, was hired to conduct a broad based needs assessment and prepare conceptual designs for an addition to Bay City Branch. The extensive studies showed that the central library needed to be 84,000 sq. ft. Architects drew up six or more design options for expanding the building.

At the same time, library management began inquiries with neighboring property owners concerning buying the necessary land. The Hyatt Funeral Home was willing to sell but required the library to buy prime relocation property and pay to build of a new, state-of-the-art funeral home. The apartment owners on the corner refused to talk with the library, saying the apartment was to be used for retirement income and was not for sale. A half dozen other properties south of the library were willing if the price were right.

Architectural studies showed that the old main library was structurally sound, but needed a new roof, all new mechanicals, barrier free alterations, and other very expensive changes. The Times thoroughly covered this planning process.

By 1995, with more studies and designs done, all agreed that the only solution was to build a new central library on some other location.

An election was held in 1995 to construct a new central library, improved other branch facilities, and close South Side. The issue was defeated. Most observers blamed the defeat on backlash from the decision to close the South Side Branch.

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Stephen Kent

Steve Kent and his family have lived in Bay City for 40 years. He is VP of Technical Services at MMCC which produces MyBayCity.Com. Kent is active in many Bay City civic organizations.

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