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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Baldwin Library remodel piques Birmingham City Commission's interest. Meeting with City Manager to follow. Joint Library-City Commission exploratory sub committee a possibility.

The City of Birmingham’s Saturday January 21st Long Range Planning Agenda was a big  half day, annual event. Before it occurred, it was widely discussed, analyzed and much anticipated. There would be pastries for breakfast. The Press would be there. There would ten presentations in varying form and length . Some sort of eat-on-the-spot 15 minute lunch would be provided. Finance, Building, Engineering, the Principal Shopping District, Fire and Safety, Planning, The Historical Museum, the City Clerk’s office and the Baldwin Library would all have their say. Some Agenda slots were thought to be better than others. Comments from the commission would be good. Silence would be awful.

The Baldwin Library had been preparing for the meeting for a long time. Library director Doug Koschik said the remodel had been a topic of internal casual  conversation for ten years.  Now it was time to seek other opinions. At the  December 18th Library Board Meeting,  the public was treated two re modelling presentations intended to present possibilities and start conversations.In prior posts on this blog  readers can find the written and  graphic version of these presentations. Click on Baldwin Library  Considers Expansion  Options
for a written version of the Library's presentation. It is currently in second place on our top ten post ranking found on the lower right hand corner of the blog page. Click on Baldwin Library  Presentation of Proposed Building Plans by Fanning Howey and Victor Saroki.

 At the library’s last building meeting (click on Baldwin Library Board Building Committee  Meeting of  January 6th) the art of think and double think had advanced to the point of  asking “what if the commission asked the library board  what they thought of  the two plans. To that end the library board drafted a statement at the last library board meeting  saying in essence the Fanning Howley plan would be practicality at a reasonable price but the Saroki Plan if any way possible would be the ultimate. A slide to that effect was tacked on to the Saroki  presentation.
Both Plans were presented at the Long Range Planning meeting and the dreaded silence did not occur. As a matter of fact the Saroki Plan stole the show.

The Mayor began by saying it seemed  "other communities look at our library as though it's their library." He said the  Baldwin Library board was doing a great job in initiating the current dialogue and maybe it was time to take the next step. Then asked the commissioners for input.  
Commissioner Rinscher advised against getting too hung up on design  too early. He advised looking at how the City managed three park project. He reminded the Library that it now served 35,000m people only 20,000 of which were Birmingham Residents. All in all he thought a sub committee to discuss things further might be a good idea.

Commissioner Mc Donald thought the Saroki design very compelling which presented a classic fund raising opportunity.
Commissioner Hoff  wondered why Fanning Howey addressed one floor instead of three. Library Director Koschik said it was intended to be a modest solution. He said he felt Fanning Howey did not address the needs of the handicapped. The Mayor then asked what was wrong with the library's current meeting of those needs. Wasn't there that big ramp by the front door ? Koschik said there was but it wasn't particularly popular because it was considered steep. 
Commissioner Hoff would suggest a sub committee and suggested looking at other libraries and getting public opinion.
Mayor Pro Tem Dilgard  wouldn't rule out a millage and mentioned recent projects like the YMCA or the  United Methodist Church which encountered road blocks along the way.
Commissioner Sherman said all related to how one saw the library fitting into the community.the he said "I like where this is going. That's Good." Public Feedback was needed. Library's were changing. E-Books, smaller collections, etc.

City Manager Robert J.Bruner  Jr.

          Public Comments                                                                                       
 One speaker mentioned the Novi Library upgrade at $15 million, Bloomfield Township at $26 million and concluded the Birmingham Saroki plan could be done on a low per capita bond issue. Another resident preferred improving the library's collection first. A third  said the library should not overlook operational costs and wondered if one of the the city's two golf courses could be sold to provide money for the Library.
Time Table ? 
At the Baldwin  Library building meeting,  Director Koschik said maybe ten years. The plans and the interest they have generated indicate something sooner. Saturday January 19th 2012  it was obvious that the the library has done it's home work but there is much work to be done before the project leaves the drawing board. Could the Sarioki plan be done in modular stages ? Could both the Fanney Howey Plan and the Sarioki be implemented. The Next step is for Library Director Doug Koschik to meet with the City Manager. That wouldn't happen if the  City Commission had no interest or the timing wasn't right or the city didn't think the library had done it's homework. That meeting could take place this week. The next step after that would be the formation of a Library-City Commission sub committee. That would indicate need for more discussion and a mutual quest for answers. Last Saturday an   enhanced Baldwin Library went from being a conversation starter to something that important people who don't have time to waste are willing to plan. That is a big leap forward.

To the readers of this blog who live in Birmingham ( We are told there are more than a few) who are interested in the other presentations made at the Long Range Planning Agenda, the  Birmingham Patch covered them all  in quite comprehensive detail. You may connect to them here by clicking on Birmingham Patch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good job accurately reporting the event.