WEB EXTRA - Library board appears headed to showdown with city council

DeWayne Bartels
Third District councilman Bob Manning addresses the Peoria Public Library Board at the June 17 meeting. Manning was there in the absence of 4th District councilman and library liason Bill Spears.

The Peoria Public Library Board appears headed to a partial showdown with the Peoria City Council next week on a council favored plan to shut down the Lakeview Branch and build a new North Peoria branch on property at either Richwoods High School or Expo Gardens.

But, there is some room for compromise.

The board voted unanimously last night to stop any planning efforts for a site near Expo Gardens until, and unless, the city council delivers them a set of criteria to be used for the Expo site. The board said if the council does that they would consider evaluating the other sites under consideration with those same criteria.

“It’s too material a change,” library trustee Paula Bryant said of the council favored plan.

Board member Linda Daley said, after 35 years in Peoria, she has seen boards do studies and ask for public input only to toss aside the public input.

“You ask the public to get involved and nothing happens,” Daley said.

“I don’t understand how you ask the public for input and then ignore it. That causes cynicism.”

Board member Arthur Perkins was more direct, saying it was “too bad” if the city council was not satisfied with the library board’s choices for a new North Peoria branch.

“I, for one, don’t think we need to go over the same thing again. The public has spoken on what they want … I’m not willing to change at this point in the stream,” Perkins said. 

“I think we better listen to the resounding vote and support we’ve been given.”

However, the board is willing to meet the council part way.

The talk of compromise by the library board came after 3rd District councilman Bob

Manning questioned the library board’s wisdom in expanding the Lakeview Branch when no one knows exactly what percentage of Lakeview users would be pulled away by a New North Peoria branch.

“That’s a fair question,” Manning said.

Bill Spears, 4th District councilman and library liaison to the city council, was absent.

Several library board members, including board president Michael McKenzie, said they would be willing to hold off on the $7 million in improvements to the Lakeview Branch to see how usage there would be impacted by a new North Peoria branch.

“But, that is a different issue than Expo,” McKenzie said.

Brian Ruddell, vice-president of the library board, said he could also hold off on improving Lakeview.

“But, Lakeview,” he said, “is our most northern branch … to consider closing that for another location does not make a lot of sense to me.” 

He said spending time and money investigating the Expo site was not a good use of either commodity. 

McKenzie added that looking for a new site that would best serve North Peoria if the Lakeview Branch was closed and how big it would have to be would be a long and expensive process.

Manning, following the meeting, said his interpretation of the library board’s vote was to go to the council and propose the Festival Foods or Suds’ site and offer to hold off on the Lakeview Branch improvements.

Asked if that would satisfy the council, Manning paused.

“I don’t know,” he said.