Something Odd About the Public Library Construction Grant Program

Because the local library applied for a state construction grant in 2012, I decided to read up on these grants. One result of the research is doubt that all the money from a new library grant “pot” has all gone to libraries — but I am having a difficult time finding out for sure. This is a progress report for citizen watchdogs and others interested in state level grant programs, the Illinois State Library and/or the Freedom of Information Act.

Sandwich Public Library found out about its $1.6 million construction grant award months ago, but word is just now circulating. DeKalb Public Library was notified in July that it wouldn’t receive an award this fiscal year, yet suddenly now it’s getting $8.5 million from the state for its planned expansion.

The questions that arise out of these announcements — and their peculiar timing — are related to what I would describe as an uncharacteristic lack of transparency by the Illinois State Library in administering a $50 million construction grant program. I’ve used the Internet and, just lately, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to try to part the curtains.

Though the FOIA adventure continues, having local libraries and their good fortunes in the news seems a reasonable excuse to lay out the story so far, so here goes. Continue reading Something Odd About the Public Library Construction Grant Program

Mayor Povlsen Calls Opposition to DeKalb Library Expansion Actions “Anti Idiots”

There’s a Facebook group called “You know you’re from Sycamore, Illinois when…”. I just took a screenshot of it in case somebody deletes something later. Anyway there’s a nice photo of the Sycamore Public Library posted along with this description:

For those of you who haven’t been back to Sycamore for some time, this is a foto of the new library. Instead of tearing down the old one, we added a large addition to the east side of it in 1997. It is two stories and has room for a large meeting room and kitchen area. I think the addition ties into the old building rather well. At the east end is a large parking lot.

One commenter on the post notes that there was a lot of opposition to the Sycamore Library expansion and to paraphrase, he was proud of the work he and others did to overcome it. That is a nice comment. Nobody called anybody names.

Then there is Kris Povlsen’s comment:

We are doing the same here in DeKalb to the Haish Library. The anti idiots are always going to oppose all progress. Over the years I have learned to ignore them and do what is in the best interest of the community.

Continue reading Mayor Povlsen Calls Opposition to DeKalb Library Expansion Actions “Anti Idiots”

Chicago-Kent Center for Open Government Requests Legal Review of the DeKalb Public Library Expansion Process

[Update 1 added 2/23/2012 after the jump.]
[Update 2 added 2/24/2010]

Click on either image to access larger versions.

I’ll note additions to this post, if any, at the City Barbs Blog Facebook page as well.

Continue reading Chicago-Kent Center for Open Government Requests Legal Review of the DeKalb Public Library Expansion Process

DeKalb Library Land Purchase is Complete

The DeKalb Public Library closed yesterday on its purchase of land for expansion from Castle Bank, trustee under Trust Agreement #2222 and the sole beneficiary of the land trust, developer Steve Irving. The purchase price is $1,450,000 plus $25,000 for each month/part of month beyond the original target closing date of October 1, 2011, according to the purchase agreement.

If you’d like a copy of the agreement, e-mail me. It’s a 30-page PDF.

Comment on the Approval of the Library Expansion

Library ShelvesPeople are starting to ask me why I’m against the DeKalb Public Library expansion.

I’m not against AN expansion of DPL. I’m against THIS expansion because I disapprove of secrecy, corrupted processes and the lack of proper public participation. I’m against letting the current library board, a group of proven lawbreakers, run the show.

Pick anything under the DeKalb Public Library tag at this blog for details, and check out DeKalb County Online for Mac’s view of the latest developments. This is about making sure government follows the rules, and creating a fuss when it’s not. Period. It always has been. Continue reading Comment on the Approval of the Library Expansion

Depending on City Officials for Truth about Legality of Library Expansion? Please.

It was a toss-up whether to focus on DeKalb Public Library’s ongoing coyness about its expansion plans, or the role of local media in covering for it. How about a bit of both.

Today’s WTF moment is brought to you by the Daily Chronicle in “DeKalb officials expand on library land process, say everything appears kosher”.

City attorney Dean Frieders said the city council does not have to give its approval for the land purchase because it would be funded with “relatively short-term financing,” in the form of a bequest, rather than a tax increase, a mortgage or a municipal bond to purchase the land.

And, ahem, TIF money.

Here’s the comment I left on the story.

The development agreement may give the council a “say,” but according to library law the council does more than that — council makes the call. At any rate, why are we listening to the same city officials who flip-flop about whether council has the authority to set the library’s levy (it does), and who refuse to insist the library make its annual report to council using the same detailed report it sends to the state? Perhaps it is time for our state’s attorney to step in, at least to ask for an opinion from the Illinois Attorney General.

The alternative is to go to court. Continue reading Depending on City Officials for Truth about Legality of Library Expansion? Please.

Traffic Studies

A new police station on Route 38 is in the works, and a proposed expansion of the DeKalb Public Library would involve closing a portion of North Third Street.

Clearly, each of these projects/proposals if built would impact traffic patterns at their respective locations.

Mac McIntyre brought up the need for a traffic study at the police station site a few months ago so I’ve been doing some research into the requirements as time allows.

Communications with the state Department of Transportation have convinced me that it would likely not be possible for the City of DeKalb to obtain a permit for the police station construction without a traffic study. Indeed, ComEd will have to obtain a permit to dig a hole for a pole before it begins utility work at the site.

Additionally, I just found out that the city approved “administratively” a traffic study, now in progress, for the police station site.

All’s well then, right? NO. My reading of the Municipal Code does not allow for an “administrative” decision on traffic studies. The procedure is for the director of Public Works to make a recommendation and for the city council to vote on the recommendation.

I’ve put the applicable section of Chapter 23, Article 7 after the jump. Continue reading Traffic Studies

A Closer Look at DeKalb Per Capita Debt

This table was part of Friday’s long post, but deserves some attention of its own.

[table id=34 /]

You can find the breakdown of the FY2010 overlapping debt in this document, on p. 153.

FY2010 ended June 30, 2010. Let’s look at some of the GO bond issues since that date:

DeKalb County: $16,000,000, 10/14/2010

School District 428: $38,001,359.50, 8/4/2010

City of DeKalb: $9,320,000, 12/01/2010

City of DeKalb: $550,000, 10/5/2010 Continue reading A Closer Look at DeKalb Per Capita Debt

DeKalb Public Library at It Again

Library ShelvesLet’s review, shall we?

A library DISTRICT is an independent taxing body with an elected board.

Though it is attempting to function as one, DeKalb Public Library is NOT a library district. It is a public library and a component unit of the City of DeKalb. The mayor of DeKalb appoints the board members with the advice and consent of the council. It is the city council that approves DKPL’s annual budget, tax levy, and building expansion plans.

Council could also approve the issuance of bonds for a building expansion without having to pass a referendum, so it’s likely DKPL has zero interest in becoming a district. Therefore the city, being stuck with a rogue board, must address the problem. There are at least two approaches: the mayor could dissolve the board and start over, or the city could use its bonding power as leverage to get DKPL back in line.

Last time our city council tried to put the reins on DKPL’s tax levy, the city attorney said it did not have the authority to do so. That was pretty funny, because the council has done so in the past. Also, back in January the city council of Naperville asked its public library to make $300,000 in budget cuts. It is clear that Illinois cities have authority and responsibilities of oversight of their public library boards.

Today’s report in the Daily Chronicle that DKPL is also refusing to say where the money is coming from for its latest efforts at land purchases is especially troubling. A buildup of reserves for undeclared purposes is a slush fund, and has no place in the business of the public.

Another Denial of a Public Library Levy Request

Galesburg, November 2010:

The Galesburg Public Library voted Thursday night to slash $20,000 from its earlier budget request in an effort to gain the City Council’s support in raising the library’s property tax levy.
[…]
Relations between the city and the library have been increasingly strained due to disagreements on whether to increase the property tax levy in the face of sharp budget shortfalls. The City Council is expected to vote Nov. 15 on the city’s property tax levy, which includes the library’s levy.
[…]
For years, the City Council has been opposed to levy increases. Last year, the city rejected the library’s levy request, forcing library officials to make several cutbacks. As part of its efforts to reduce costs last year, the library closed on Sundays and reduced its budget by $93,000.

Galesburg joins Naperville as another recent example of a city council exerting control over public library levy requests.

Last November, DeKalb’s city attorney said the city had no such authority, though even DeKalb has reduced the DeKalb Public Library’s tax levy in the past.