By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
The July 21 meeting of the Oxford Public Library Board of Trustees was all about the expansion bond.
With accounting firm PSLA’s presenter not showing up to present the firm’s audit of the library’s 2020 finance report, the meeting became almost solely about the upcoming capital improvement bond election scheduled for Nov. 2, 2021. It was the first meeting since the Oxford Township Board of Trustees approved the library’s proposal for the bond election at their July 14 meeting.
Lyn Klages, Secretary for the 501(c)(3) charitable organization Oxford Public Library Friends (also known as the Friends of the Library), was the first person to speak about the bond at length.
Klages’ presentation was aimed at countering possible misinformation that had been spread around Oxford about the bond and the ways bond funds will be used if approved.
Regarding the misinformation, Klages discussed how the upcoming election will be the second time a capital improvement bond has been brought to the voters since the last library expansion. The first attempt at voter approval was for a similar bond presented to voters in 2020, which failed by 47 votes.
The two other library funding elections held in the 2010s (2012 and 2014) were for Headlee overrides. If approved, either vote would have returned prior millage tax rates that had reduced over time back to their original rates.
“If we had a Headlee override vote tonight and it passed, then the .6145 [reduced rate from the 1984 millage] would go back up to 1 mil,” Klages said.
Klages then explained why the library is seeking to expand and why it is deciding to expand now. In regards to why expand, Klages said the library is too small for its existing use and cannot serve the growing Oxford community properly if it remains at its current capacity.
“Program attendance from 2011 to 2019 went from 4,982 [people] to 10,142,” Klages said regarding youth services event attendance. “That means there are that many people sitting on the floor, standing in between the shelves, trying to find a place to stand with their little ones.”
The lack of space affects the adult services department’s ability to provide working and employment-seeking Oxford residents the space and materials to study or freely use computers, as well as the ability for the library to provide community organizations a free place to host events.
The latter point was raised by Klages in comparison to using Oxford Community Schools property, which charges at least $585 for non-OCS groups to use their facilities.
As for why the library wants to pass the bond now, Klages stated that capital improvement bond interest rates are uniquely low right now. Libraries across the country have been expanding and modernizing as well, expanded upon in a NPR “Marketplace” segment Klages mentioned.
After Klages’ presentation ended, architect Seth Penchansky from Daniels and Zermack was brought up to speak about the proposed expansion. While he agreed with Klages’ statement about bond rates being uniquely low, Penchansky cautioned the current high cost of construction rates.
“A lot of [the high construction costs] is kind of catching up and maybe inflation,” Penchansky said. “Some of those construction costs might come down but they may not.”
However, Penchansky stated that delaying due to construction costs might make the project more expensive. He also advised the board on several other issues such as whether to find a construction manager before the bond is decided.
During the public comment period, two people decided to speak. The first was David Walker, who voiced his support for the library expansion.
“It’s time to do what we need to do to keep [the library] going forward,” Walker said. “The kids deserve it, the adults deserve it. I know it is hard to say it’s a little bit of money [to pay for the expansion], but it really is a little bit of money. I am strongly in support of every aspect that I have heard tonight.”
Following Walker’s comments, Tom Hoover – who interrupted the meeting twice – presented an anti-expansion sentiment though did not voice any complaints with the bond being discussed. Instead, Hoover handed out copies of fact sheets from the Michigan Municipal League and claimed there had been violations regarding signage being posted about the 2020 bond at the library and his belief that comments by Library Director Bryan Cloutier at prior board meetings were in violation of the MML documents he presented. Hoover did not provide any evidence to back either of his claims.