Might it be time for a new Greenwood Public Library?
If it would take somewhere around $100,000 to upgrade the Greenwood Public Library’s quarters in the former City Hall building, might it just be wiser to invest instead in an entirely new facility? That question will get a serious look in the coming months as the city decides if its 86-year-old stone building on Main Street is beyond its useful life.
Members of the Public Library’s Building and Policy Committee asked the city Council last week to consider spending money on a list of facility needs at the City Hall building the city vacated earlier this year. The city clerk’s office had shared space in the old City Hall building until the Council decided in late 2018 to buy the former Memorial Medical Center Clinic building a block to the south on Main Street. When that move was completed, the Council’s plan was to spend money to upgrade and expand the library’s space. That has not happened yet, however, as money the Council borrowed to buy and remodel the new clerk’s office location, reroof and perform other maintenance work on the city-owned Branstiter “Old Streets of Greenwood” museum, and upgrade the library was used up before any was spent for the library.
Even though the library now has more space, the building needs extensive upgrades, according to the library committee members.
“We found there are some things that have been neglected,” said Committee Chair Cheri Lenz. ”There are some things that have really, really been waiting a long time and need to get done.”
The committee presented the city Council with a list of building needs at the Council’s Oct. 7 meeting. The list of needed work includes exterior and interior stonework to alleviate leaks, exterior drainage problems, leaking and rotting wooden window frames, and updates for restroom accessibility for those with disabilities. The library is also asking for interior upgrades to increase space, various work on interior paint/finishing, and renovations to the former city office and council chambers areas.
Lenz requested that the city consider borrowing money for at least some of those needs. Or, she suggested, the Council may instead want to consider a whole new building.
“We’re questioning whether it pays to fix this 1934 stone building,” she said.
Library director Kim Metzke said the library’s current layout is lacking for square footage and convenience.
“The main thing is space,” Metzke said. “The library is kind of cut up into small rooms. People are searching all over to find out where to go next.”
The current library occupies two main rooms that are connected by a wide hallway-type area. The space once occupied by city functions includes a large council chambers room and the former clerk’s office, all separated by more walls. Metzke said the old library’s drawbacks are hindering its ability to offer programming. It recently hosted a sewing group, she said, but space was too limited.
“We had four sewing machines set up and the room was full,” Metzke said. “It’s kind of frustrating because we could do so much if we had the space.”
Lenz and Metzke also said a new library could include a large community gathering area, something the city lacks now.
“We need a community center in this town,” Metzke said. “This could be a good opportunity for the library to serve as that.”
Mayor Jim Schecklman assured the library committee members that the Council was serious about library improvements. In action approved late in 2018, the city borrowed $450,000 to buy and renovate the former clinic building, upgrade the old City Hall space for the library, and complete maintenance work at the museum. The problem was, Schecklman said, the other two projects cost more than expected.
The city spent $135,000 to buy the clinic space, and $146,000 to remodel it for city use. The museum project, including a new roof, exterior metal walls, windows, and interior upgrades cost another $104,000. Those costs, plus engineering fees for the
“Obviously, the cost is the big thing … I don’t know how feasible it is, but I think we have to look at it.” -- Greenwood Mayor Jim Schecklman upgrade projects, ate up most of the loan money.
“It was there,” Schecklman said of money for the library. “All of our bids (for the city office and museum) came back higher than we anticipated … It was the intent of this Council to give money to the library. It’s unfortunate everything cost so much more than it did.”
Now, Schecklman said, the city needs to decide what it will do with the library going forward. As a first step, the library committee will meet soon with the Council’s Facility Committee to look at the most pressing needs.
“We know you have some things that need to be addressed now,” Schecklman said.
There is no money left for significant spending in the 2020 budget, he noted, and the Council is in the process of drafting its 2021 spending plan. In that, Schecklman said, the city perhaps can find money “to get you through the winter.”
The city can then take some time to study the issue of spending more money on the old building, or building something new. One potential building site would be an open lot between the museum and the Family Dollar Store on South Main Street. Schecklman said Council member Ryan Ashbeck suggested that city-owned space as a new library location.
We could attach it (a new library) to the museum, which would draw more traffic there,” the mayor said. “It kind of promotes the museum with the library. The city already owns that piece of land anyway. There’s a lot of positives to that. Obviously, the cost is the big thing … I don’t know how feasible it is, but I think we have to look at it.”
Schecklman said the city will also consider other options, such as possibly working with the school for a combined library. It could just go with the needed repairs to the old building, but is that the best use of city dollars?
“It seems like we could drop a hundred grand into that easily, and you’ve still got a small building updated,” he said.
If the city were to build a new library, what would become then of the 1934 structure? Part of it could be used for interior restrooms for the adjacent city park/ playground area, Schecklmen said, and the rest for a community room, or rental space for a business.
Metzke said she has two initial concerns with the location by the museum. For one, she said, it’s a low lot with drainage issues. Also, she said, it’s not in the center of town and not as convenient as the current location.
“Kids would have to ride all the way down there to get there,” Metzke said. “That’s a long way from the school to ride your bike to the library afterwards.”
Schecklman said it might not make sense to build a new library on the site of the current one. The area behind it contains many buried utility lines, he said, which would limit any new building’s footprint.
“I don’t think you have the room there for what you want,” the mayor said. “You’re really boxed in all the way around.”
Schecklman said the plan for now will be to have the two committees meet to review pressing needs and “what you can do to get by.” After that, a look at the bigger picture will happen to find a long-term solution.
“We want to do something with the library,” the mayor said. “I know it’s very valuable and I’d love to see it expand.”