The fate of the Lakeview branch debates continues

DeWayne Bartels

Whether a new North Peoria Library branch, on or near the grounds of Richwoods High School, is a good idea rests with the District 150 school board for now.

And, with the decision of the school board, the fate of the Lakeview Library Branch may be decided as well.

But, there are no indications how the school board might greet this proposal.

Most members of the District 150 board and administration, at a June 3 meeting, were tight-lipped after meeting with members of the Peoria City Council and Peoria Public Library Board.

District 150 superintendent Ken Hinton said simply he would be taking the discussion to the full school board “very, very soon.”

District 150 board member Jim Stowell, who attended the meeting, said he is willing to consider the idea.

“If they want to put a state-of-the-art facility on our front door,” Stowell said, “I’ll consider it.”

Earlier that day Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said closing the Lakeview Branch could potentially trim $8 to $10 million off the price tag of the library’s expansion and renovation project, projected at $35 million.

“We’re very interested in this idea,” Ardis said.

“I’d say closing Lakeview is the only way to do it. Expo would be too close to Lakeview.”

He said the land that the Lakeview Branch sits on could be given back to the Peoria Park District, which, he said, complains of being facility-poor.

“That saves us a big chunk of money and gives us a new branch. It would give everyone a little bit of what they want,” Ardis said.

“There’s enough votes with the right compromise. This council wants to do something to support the library. I’m very optimistic we’ll put together more than six votes.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, which lasted just more than an hour, 4th District councilman and council/library liaison Bill Spears said all the city council wanted to do with the meeting was to make sure “no stone was left un-turned.”

Spears also confirmed what Ardis said about the possibility of closing the Lakeview Library Branch.

“It could be a possibility,” Spears said.

“But, we are in the preliminary stages.”

Peoria Public Library president Mike McKenzie said he is opposed to closing the Lakeview Branch, but conceded if a new branch is located at, or near, Richwoods High School, it makes no sense to leave the Lakeview Branch open.

“I’m opposed to closing Lakeview. It is well-used. It is much beloved,” McKenzie said.

“But, it is 1.6 miles to Lakeview from that site … If you build a state-of-the-art library there, it makes no sense to have Lakeview that close.”

However, McKenzie said, he struggles with the rationale behind the mayor’s reasoning.

The meeting was held at the District 150 administrative offices with only a few elected members of each board so that the press and public could be excluded from the meeting.

McKenzie said after the meeting, the library board would have to wait and see what the full school board decides.

But, he has reservations the project can be done on Richwoods High School property alone. He said a new North Peoria branch would need five to six acres of land. He said the Richwoods property offers only three acres. That could potentially put the project onto property owned by Expo Gardens as well.

That possibility was raised by Ardis also.

“It’s not necessarily Expo we have in mind. It could be Expo or District 150 property or both,” Ardis said.

Larry Clay, president of the Expo Gardens board, said, June 3 there have been no formal talks with his board about this possibility, but he was aware of it.

“We haven’t stepped forward on this idea,” Clay said. “We are, however, dialoguing with the city about possibilities for this area.”

Clay said he is waiting for more information about the proposal.

“I’m looking for more information before becoming emotionally invested,” he said.

“From a logistical standpoint, it would seem to make sense with the nearby schools.

From an economic standpoint, I don’t know. But, we’re not going to close any doors.”

Clay said with 80 acres of land, Expo Gardens could accommodate all or part of a new library branch.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about the dynamics of a library here,” Clay said.

“We wouldn’t be worried about the type of people using it.”