UPDATE - Library plan for Richwoods under consideration

DeWayne Bartels
Third District councilman Bob Manning, left, and at-large councilman Ryan Spain were among elected officials from the Peoria City Council, District 150 School Board and Peoria Public Library Board attending a meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss the possibility of a new North Peoria library branch being located on the grounds of Richwoods High 
School.

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.

Members of the Peoria Public Library Board, District 150 and the Peoria City Council met yesterday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the possibility of a new North Peoria branch on Richwoods High School land.

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 unturned.”

Spears also confirmed what Mayor Jim Ardis, told the Peoria Times-Observer early Tuesday about the possibility of closing the Lakeview Library Branch.

“It could be a possibility,” Spears said.

“But, we are in the preliminary stages.”

Earlier in the day 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.

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.”

The closed-door meeting and the possibility of closing the Lakeview Branch came to light yesterday morning in an exclusive story posted at peoriatimesobserver.com.

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 will 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.

Most members of the District 150 board and administration at the meeting were tight-lipped afterward.

District 150 Superintendent Ken Hinton, following the meeting, 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.”