Land Purchase Q&A
I haven’t heard any news lately about the Cetron land purchase. What’s going on with this?
How is the library paying for this land?
Why did the Library pay $2 million for this property?
What happened to the Sixth Street School Site?
The old Viking building is for sale, why can't we buy that?
Why buy land if you don’t know a referendum will pass?
Why do we need a larger library building?
Can’t the current library be remodeled to continue to serve Geneva for the future?
What will happen to the space after the Library completes the purchase of the property?
Isn’t there concern about the potential for hazardous waste on the Cetron property?
How soon would a new library be built?
What will happen to the current library if a referendum for a new library passes?
At the September 2010 board meeting, the library approved a resolution to purchase the Cetron property for $2 million. The Cetron property consists of 4 parcels of land that were part of a foreclosure. Since the library tendered a contract to Amcore Bank, the property owner at the time, some changes and transfers have taken place. Amcore has been taken over by Harris Bank. The Cetron property was then acquired by Bayview Financial from Harris. During the approval process, Bayview discovered that only 2 of the parcels had been foreclosed on by Amcore and Bayview did not actually own all four parcels. To make this sale work, the owners of the 2 parcels will need to transfer title to Bayview in exchange for a release of liability. This process is ongoing and will also need FDIC approval. As part of the process, the property was included in the May 3, 2012 Sheriff’s Sale at which Bayview was the successful buyer, and on May 14, a Court Order was entered confirming the results of the sale. Once the title is transferred to Bayview, the bank will be in a position to sign a contract with the Library and proceed with the deal. At that point, we will be able to do our environmental study of the land. The terms of the contract still allow us an “out” if the findings of the site assessment are negative.
The library had established a Special Reserve Fund of $1.3 million dollars in 2008 for the purchase of real estate for construction of a library facility. In addition, enough funds are in the building acquisition, developer donations and general fund to cover the remaining $700,000. Because the funding for this purchase is already in place, there is no need for the library to borrow money or go to referendum.
Some have stated that we paid the bank’s asking price without negotiating and that this was inappropriate considering the economy that we’re in. Actually, we had an appraisal done that didn’t include all the parcels that the bank was offering. That appraisal came in at $1.5 million. The bank had an appraisal that included all the property; and their appraisal came in at $4.1 million, which was their initial asking price. We offered $1.5 million for all of the sites even though we had an appraisal in hand saying just the partial site was worth the $1.5 million. The bank would not respond to that offer. Through further discussions with the bank, the price of $2 million was agreed upon. Based on their appraisal as well as our partial appraisal, we were very confident in the purchase price. We believe by the time the library is ready to build at the new location, this same property would have cost a minimum of twice what we are currently paying.
As part of our due diligence as stewards of the taxpayers’ money a third independent appraisal is being done now. We believe this appraisal will far exceed the $2 million purchase amount, and we are very confident that the library board has acted in the best interests of the tax payers by purchasing this property well below its value. It is our understanding that the debt owed to the bank on these parcels well exceeds $3 million so in essence we will be party to a short sale to the benefit of our tax payers.
The Library signed a contract with Kane County, the owners of the Sixth Street School site, in 2003. Although approved unanimously by the County Board in early 2004, the contract was never executed.
The Board has wanted for years to secure a site with enough space for a new building and adequate parking, close to downtown if possible. We have been well aware of the need for a new library for a number of years. While delayed, the need has not changed. Based on information gathered in past surveys it was very apparent the community felt strongly that the Library needed to remain downtown.
In 2003, the Library commissioned a survey through Northern Illinois University. 1,000 households were asked questions and 548 completed surveys were returned. Five factors were presented that might be considered in selecting a location for a larger main library. The most important factor among respondents was keeping the library in the downtown area, followed by parking. This is one of the reasons the library had tried to acquire the Sixth Street property and why the board acted to get the Cetron property, which would expand the downtown area.
The Library Board has looked at the Viking Building site as a place for expansion. There are a number of issues that make it a less attractive option then a completely new site. To get sufficient parking, underground parking would be needed and this would be quite expensive. We would need more than the Viking building alone to gain us sufficient space, so there would be multiple property owners to deal with. If we tried to integrate the current library building with adjoining buildings, we still would be left with the issues in this building that create difficulties for the public and also challenges for staffing, such as our 3 levels and duplicate service desks contributing to less efficient operation. In addition, the current awkward-shaped public spaces would be difficult to blend into a new building in a way that would truly improve the environment for patrons.
The Board needed to secure the long-term future of the library that fit into the expectations of the Library District as indicated in past surveys. While we realize a referendum will be needed to construct a new library, we would like to have a site secured and a building designed for that site before we bring the issue before the community.
The current library is 27,600 sq. ft. and is adequate to serve a population of approximately 23,000-25,000. The estimated current population of the library district is about 30,000. Build out of the entire district is expected to be 40,000-45,000 residents at some future date. The current building would not be able to handle this larger population and is barely adequate for serving the current population.
As a point of comparison, the Batavia Public Library, opened in 2002, is 54,000 square feet and serves a population of approximately 23,000. The Elmhurst Public Library, opened in 2003, is 80,000 square feet and serves a population of over 40,000. The design of both of these facilities has taken into account collection size, public computer usage, public seating and study space, parking, and staff work areas. Both cover approximately the upper and lower ends of the Geneva Public Library Districts service population.
We continue to work to make this building serve as the best library it can for the citizens of the district. However, there are many challenges to this in addition to serving the larger population expected in the future. We have built-in inefficiencies of multiple service desks in every public department. These are largely the result of the added-on nature of the building, which has had several additions since it opened in 1908. The additions have addressed the needs of the time, but also have created a disjointed environment that is harder to manage efficiently. This affects the overall ability of the Library to provide the services that are demanded by the patrons.
The library has no parking of its own. We have only one study room. The collection has grown at the expense of public seating and work areas. The library is not well equipped to support patron laptop usage. It is the opinion of a majority of the library board that there is no good way to construct a more quiet, cell-phone free public area to allow for different uses of the library building by the public.
After the closing, the library will be clearing the property of its main and adjoining buildings as well as clearing up the 2+ acres as a whole. Its current condition has been an eyesore to its neighbors for a long time, and we believe it would be disrespectful to our new neighbors not to secure the site. Both the police and fire departments support this direction based on the lack of safety conditions that currently exist on the site. Once the site becomes open space, it potentially could be used by the Friends of the Library and the Library Foundation, and possibly other organizations, for outdoor fundraising venues, such as concerts, community picnics or other such get togethers.
That would be a concern at any property, and that is why our contract with the purchaser is constructed to allow us an “out” if we find that the clean-up of the property is cost-prohibitive. A site analysis is being done.
As mentioned above, construction of a new library would need to be brought before the voters of the library district through a referendum. There are many factors that will determine when that would be including the state of the economy and determining what the high end of our service population would be. It could be up to five years away. The Library needs to complete a planning process the will include public input as to what the new building will be like. We will rely on Illinois Library Association guidelines for what we are expected to provide, fitting this into the expectations of the Geneva Public Library District. In the meantime, we still need to make the current building the best library building it can be and will continue to make improvements to that end.
The existing library site is our library, and it will stay our library until the voters decide otherwise. We’re hoping as the economy rebounds and the voters realize we have outgrown our current facility we will be able to go forward with the new building. Once the decision has been made to build a new library, the future of our existing site will be decided. While it would not be in our control once we sell the site, we would convey our wishes to potential purchasers that the building stay intact.