Library rehab plan shelved

Evanston aldermen got cold feet Monday about plans to renovate the branch libraries.

So they voted to postpone action on a contract to spend $52,500 to hire an architect to design the improvements at the north and south branches.

After learning that the south branch project might cost $300,000, Alderman Steve Bernstein, whose 4th Ward is near the library site, said he thought that was too much to spend when the city has less than four years to go on its lease for the building.

The library’s administrative services manager, Paul Gottschalk, said the city is talking to the landlord about a 10-year lease extension.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she had doubts about the merits of extending the lease "when from time to time we’re confronted with the issue of cutting the library branches."

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said the council could only get firm estimates of what the project would cost by hiring the architect to design it.

But Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he feared a repeat of the experience with the children’s section renovation at the main library in which "cost estimates kept going higher and higher and we ended up committing a lot more money than we intended to."

The proposed work would eliminate accessibility problems, update washrooms, and upgrade electrical and air conditioning systems in the branches.

Some aldermen were also concerned that only part of the funding to do the rehab work is already in place.

The city has allocated $130,000 in this year’s capital improvement plan for the work and pending council approval could add $130,000 more next year. It also expects to receive $50,000 in contributions from library supporters for the project.

But the rest of the money is expected to come from the sale of a city-owned storefront adjacent to the north branch.

While a realtor hired by the city has estimated the sale would bring in $380,000, the building hasn’t actually sold yet.

The library issue will be back on the City Council’s agenda for its next meeting, Oct. 27.

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