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Fenton mulls library’s future — repair, rebuild?

City to look to other municipalities to help fund building’s future

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Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 5:38 pm

 Fenton — What’s in the future for the Fenton Jack R. Winegarden Library? A feasibility study arranged for last October by Fenton City Council will help to determine just that.

 George Ananich from THA Architects presented the findings from that study to the city council’s work session meeting on Monday.

 Fixing all of the issues listed as first priority on the report is estimated to cost $204,664, while a new building could come in at as much as $5.2 million. Fenton City Council discussed looking outside of the city to other municipalities that use Fenton library for financial support.

 According to the study, the library has issued 21,266 library cards as of last September, and receives about 387 visits daily while averaging 115,000 annually. The study referred to the library as “a vital and well used resource for the area.”

 The current building for the library is two floors, with 3,200 square feet per floor. According to THA Architects, for a library that serves as many people as the Fenton Jack R. Winegarden Library, the building is undersized by about 20,000 square feet.

 However, the current building, constructed in 1940, is certainly showing its age, as the feasibility study revealed many issues with the building.

 Problems addressed by the study also noted that the library’s finishes are old and worn, the poor condition of the carpet in places, and how the city storm water system backs up in the building’s lower level. The building’s heating systems are thought to be reaching the end of their life cycle, and some exposed insulation could possibly be asbestos. The lack of outdoor ventilation means the building also does not meet the current Michigan Mechanical Code.

 The building also has many barrier-free issues, including problems with parking, bathrooms, and the elevator.

 Structurally, the building is believed to be in stable condition.

 A survey issued to library patrons and staff members helped to identify areas of functionality that required improvement. These areas included such things as a lack of space for meetings and special events, no private study areas, lack of space for the library’s book collection, and limited onsite parking.

 “The above deficiencies limit growth and service improvement. Some functional and accessibility improvements could be made with an addition, however, parking will still be an issue,” THA wrote in its report.

 Councilman Bradley Jacob said that while there are immediate issues that need to be dealt with involving the building, it was important for the council to look at what should be done in the long term.

 “There are enough components in this that are coming to the end of their life cycle,” he said. “I don’t think we can continue with this forever, or too much longer.”

 Councilman Les Bland said that he would love to spend the money on a new library — but the city doesn’t have any to spend. “It all comes down to funding,” he said. “We need to be reasonable.”

 “I think this is a really great step forward,” said Councilwoman Patricia Lockwood. “This is a real assessment of the problems we have to deal with.”

 After dealing with the immediate safety issues, the council will explore what options they have available to them. Whether this includes a renovation to the current building or looking to make something new remains up in the air.

 “We’re not even at 50 percent of usage of the facility, but we are at 100 percent of providing the cost for the building,” said City Manager Lynn Markland. “That cost needs to be spread over a wider group of people than just the residents of the city.”

 Mayor Sue Osborn prepared getting other municipalities that use the library, such as Fenton Township, together for a joint meeting to discuss the library’s future. “I think that each municipality that uses this building has a certain responsibility,” she said.


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