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No on Cetron purchase: 'A huge, difficult decision'

Published: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 6:50 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 8:51 p.m. CST

GENEVA – When the Geneva Library Board voted unanimously Saturday not to proceed with a planned purchase of the 2.28 acre Cetron property, the decision ended a three-year effort to buy the site for a new library.

The board voted in July 2010 to buy the property at 7 Richards St. for $2 million. That action followed library officials’ 10-year effort to buy the former Sixth Street School site for a new library building with parking.

The previous county board had approved the sale, but never followed through. The Kane County Regional Education Office is currently housed there.

Board president Esther Steel said voting no on the Cetron property was difficult.

“It was huge for the entire board,” Steel said. “This was a huge, difficult decision, but the one thing about our board, they are all passionate about doing the right thing for the library district.”

Library trustee Robert Shiffler echoed Steel’s sentiments.

“I’m disappointed,” Shiffler said. “But I think we made the right decision. We have to take a look at what alternatives we have and start the process all over again.”

The effort to find a location and build a larger facility while remaining in the city’s downtown has been a long-term plan of library officials, as the current building at 127 James St. is not big enough to serve the district’s 31,000 residents, Steel said.

“We’re not really providing services in our building that we should be,” Steel said. “We are really falling down at this point on things we should be doing for our community. It’s really frustrating.”

If the Cetron purchase had gone through, voter support for a referendum to build a new facility would have been required, she said.

Trustees voted 6-0 not to proceed with the

Cetron purchase following a 90-minute closed special meeting Saturday. Trustee Travis Ketterman was out of town and not available to attend, Steel said.

The library hired Aires Consulting of Batavia for a site assessment of environmental conditions that began in April.

If clean-up was deemed to be too expensive, library trustees could stop the sale – which they did. Steel said attorneys advised library officials they could not release the environmental report, nor provide specifics as to what was found at the Cetron site.

The building had been used in the manufacture of light bulbs in the past, but was vacant and in foreclosure for the past several years.

But Steel said other issues also led to the decision to back out of the sale.

“There were a lot of factors, actually, a lot of dynamics going on,” Steel said. “Location was a factor. There are possible other, potentially better locations that all tie into it.”

As to whether library officials would pursue the former Sixth Street School site again, Steel said the board would be looking at several options, but could not speak publicly about them yet.

“We might even reconsider looking at our own building,” Steel said. “There are a lot of options on the table, and we have virtually a new board …. This board needs an opportunity to sit down and look at all our options. I think we owe it to them to be able to work through this process.”

Other options discussed in the past included if the city were to move to a new building, the library could expand into the city hall space.

But Steel said in order to make that option work, the 101-year-old city hall building would have to be torn down.

“That is something we are going to be discussing – what we would have to do to that block to make it work for the library,” Steel said. “We were trying to hold off on focus groups until we had a location, and now we don’t [have a location]. We are reviewing everything we should do. It does not cost us any money to host a few focus groups.”

Steel said the Cetron decision would be up for discussion at its regular meeting 7 p.m. Thursday, though part of the meeting will be in closed session as trustees discuss other locations for a new library building.

The library board canceled a special meeting that had been set for Monday to discuss a recent court decision on an annexation dispute with the Batavia Library District. Steel said discussion on that decision might be added to Thursday’s agenda.

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