Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

New library returns to board’s radar
However, village president prefers expansion option

by Rob Ireland

February 09, 2012

WALWORTH — The village’s library has been buzzing ever since two elected officials publicly commented on the possibility of building or expanding the facility.

For the past few years, Library Director Bobbi Sorrentino said not a day passes where someone doesn’t ask her about the status of a new library. Since Trustee Kent Johnson and Village President David Rasmussen publicly discussed library expansion issues, those questions are becoming even more frequent.

In the Dec. 22 issue of the Regional News, Johnson stated he would like to see the board revisit the issue of building a new library.

Then, in the Jan. 5 issue, Village President David Rasmussen also expressed an interest, but he is interested in expanding the facility, not building a new one.

“They are really happy to see it being revisited and at least talked about,” Sorrentino said about the library’s patrons.

Library Board President Kelly Freeman said she believes “any time” is a good time to discuss building a new facility.

“The economy is weak and I understand that,” she said. “We are a little bit on the crowded side. We are not handicapped accessible, which I think is a major issue and it is shameful that we aren’t.”

Freeman said she was pleased to read Johnson’s and Rasmussen’s comments and she hopes that will generate more discussion at the Village Board level.

“The timing never seems perfect, but I think it’s time,” she said.

Both Sorrentino and Freeman want to see the village build a new facility. There is land dedicated to a new building at the Library Square subdivision, behind Sentry.

However, Rasmussen wants to look at expanding the current building, which, on the first-floor, is about 2,400 square feet. The library also has a basement — which isn’t handicapped accessible — with less usable space.

Sitting next door to the library, is a village-owned home which has about four years left on the loan, Rasmussen said. The village collects enough in rent to pay the mortgage, and Rasmussen said it would make sense to have most of the building paid off before tearing it down.

Rasmussen said the village bought the property to go along with a sale of the old library, which doesn’t have on-site parking.

He said an expansion may be a more affordable alternative for taxpayers.

“It is not going to be perfect and sometimes thing have to change incrementally,” Rasmussen said. “At this point in time, it might have to be an incremental change instead of a dramatic one.”

Since making his comments, Rasmussen said he had one person contact him telling him he would be willing to raise money for the library.

Village residents have talked to Johnson about their desire for a new library.

“Generally, people would like to see an improved facility, but there is always the question of how it’s going to be financed and the affect it will have on property taxes,” he said.

Johnson said he wants to see how much the library has hauled in from fundraising. At one point, the library was receiving financial pledges, but some of those may have been withdrawn as the project stalled, Johnson said.

“There are a lot of things we don’t know at this point,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt to look at it and move forward.”

Johnson said there are issues with the current library that need to be addressed.

“The main issue is that our library is inadequate to serve the people in our area, it is not handicapped accessible,” Johnson said. “We will have to determine the difference in cost between building a new library and expanding the old one.”

Rasmussen said the American’s with Disabilities Act requires facilities to make reasonable accommodations, but that doesn’t make the current facility completely obsolete.

For Sorrentino, she said she is running out of space to store books, DVDs and other educational materials the library provides.

“It is pretty bad when you have to decide whether to store a book or weed it out to make room for new stuff,” she said.

The library was built in 1957 and still has its original electricity, furnace and only has one bathroom.

“With 30 kids at story hour, one bathroom doesn’t cut it,” she said. “There will come a day when a handicapped child wants to come downstairs for story hour and won’t be able to do so.”

The idea of expanding the library, may help satisfy some immediate storage and overcrowding issues, but there is no doubt in Sorrentino’s mind that a new building is a better alternative.

“It still wouldn’t give us the space,” she said about the expansion. “It would just be a band-aid to keep us in this building.”

Years ago the library spent money to develop plans for a new library and community center.

“We own the land and we own the plans it would be nice to work together with the village to come up with a solution,” she said.