With the City of Bloomington’s budget situation much improved, City Council member Kim Bray says it could be time to move ahead with improvements at Bloomington Public Library.
Library leaders have been planning for expansion for almost two decades, citing a lack of space to accommodate rising demand for services. And while Bloomington City Council members have expressed support for expanding at the current library location, they have yet to commit significant funding or set a timeline for the project.
Speaking on WGLT’s Sound Ideas, Bray said it’s time to look at additional investment in the library. She cited the city’s improved financial situation, created by a mix of additional revenue expected from the state, city fee and tax increases, and other economic growth.
Bray said the library is the city’s “gateway to the information age,” citing the importance of computer access and gathering and meeting spaces.
“I’d like for us to explore what resources we have available to take care of our library and possibly do some remodeling, renovation, and a little growth on site,” Bray told WGLT.
Bray was opposed to the so-called “catalyst” project pitched in 2017-2018. That would have demolished the aging Market Street parking garage in Downtown Bloomington and built a new larger library and Connect Transit transfer center in its place. That idea failed to gain traction among Bloomington City Council members, including Bray.
But Bray said she supports some expansion at the library’s current Olive Street location, especially now that city's $228 million budget is in better shape. One estimate in fall 2018 pegged the cost of on-site library expansion at $28 million.
Bray said she also wants to explore ways to improve emergency services in northeast Bloomington, which she represents in Ward 9. That could be resource deployment and “possibly bricks and mortar,” she said.
“These are exciting developments,” said Bray. “We’ll take a look at some of the infrastructure needs, but at the same time put some of the ‘wants’ on that list.”
Meanwhile, Bray said she’s eager to see what recommendations come out of the new Connect Transit working group, which had its first meeting last month. That group was formed after the Bloomington-Normal transit system’s leaders faced criticism for planned fare increases and the recent elimination of the Olive route.
Bray said she’s especially interested in revisiting the intergovernmental agreements between Connect Transit, the City of Bloomington, and Town of Normal. She’d like to clarify and define what sort of “major change” would require signoff from the City of Bloomington and Town of Normal, which partially fund Connect Transit.
Should that be all route and fare changes? Bray said she’s eager to see what the working group says on that issue.
“I don’t need to be in the weeds. I don’t need to look at every piece of their business. But at the same time, if there’s a major shift in philosophy, the deliverable, which is public transportation for our community overall, then that kind of thing would be a major change. The good thing here is that the working group is going to explore that,” Bray said.
Bloomington City Council members also recently encouraged the working group to consider ways to avoid fare increases before they go into effect.
Does that mean Bray would support additional funding from the city?
“I’m supportive of public transportation, connecting our communities in this vital manner,” Bray told WGLT. “Therefore, I’m interested in that number and would take very seriously the recommendations of the working group.”
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