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Published: Wednesday, 8/14/2002

Library patrons at Ida, Bedford gain victories

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Barb Drodt, Ida librarian, has more than one reason to be happy to get a new library building. Barb Drodt, Ida librarian, has more than one reason to be happy to get a new library building.
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IDA - When voters last week opted to raise their property taxes in Ida and Bedford townships for larger, nicer libraries, they were also voting to give Ida Township librarian Barb Drodt something she's coveted: a bathroom.

“That will be a nice added feature that most people take for granted,” said Mrs. Drodt, the Ida Township librarian who has spent the last four years of her career walking across a parking lot in all kinds of weather to use the facilities in the township hall next door.

Supporters in both townships were elated last week when voters approved measures to more than double the size of the current Bedford Branch Library and build a new library/community room in Ida.

The vote in Ida on the 0.5-mill, five-year levy was overwhelmingly supportive - 601 to 265 - and won in both township precincts.

“Isn't it wonderful? We're very, very excited here,” said Mrs. Drodt, who along with several other members of the community have spearheaded a multi-year effort to raise money for the Ida Branch Library, the smallest in the Monroe County Library System.

“We've taken a big step, and we're on our way.”

In Bedford, voters more narrowly approved the 0.75-mill, 10-year levy that will pay to more than double the size of the current Jackman Road facility, adding more space for library materials as well as a site for community meetings and events.

The Bedford vote was 2,517 to 2,443, a margin of just 74 votes.

“I think we have a very supportive community, and people that have been in the building realize that we need what we need,” said Lois White, head librarian at the Bedford Branch Library.

“We were very excited [on election night]. We've had a lot of people come in and [offer] congratulations and say they were glad it passed.”

The current Bedford branch library was built in 1974 with help from a federal grant, consolidating smaller libraries in Temperance and Lambertville into one central facility.

Voters in 1986 overwhelmingly passed a $600,000 bond issue that doubled the size of the original building and improved its energy efficiency.

That expansion - finished in 1988 and paid off earlier this year - has been overwhelmed by the continued popularity of the library, its collection, and programs.

Township officials had tried in 2000 to secure funding for an expansion of the library, but it was defeated at the polls by voters who had approved an operating millage for the county-wide library system on the same ballot.

Last week's result in Bedford was somewhat surprising given that, just two years ago, voters had rejected an identical proposal to upgrade what is the busiest branch library in the county-wide system by a vote of 1,799 to 1,477.

While the Bedford Township Library Board has an architect's scale model of what will be done by way of renovations to the township-owned facility, it still must go through the process of having specifications drawn up on its design and bidding out the construction.

Township officials said construction could get under way as early as spring.

It could be as long as two years before patrons can begin using the 15,000-square-foot expansion.

In Ida, the timeline may be somewhat shorter.

Township officials were already planning site evaluations to pick out the specific portion of Fireman's Park where the new 5,000-square-foot branch library/community room is to be located.

Township officials estimated that the construction process could take anywhere from a year to 18 months to complete.

Ida's current 738-square-foot branch library is a former portable classroom purchased from the Ida Public Schools 25 years ago for $1

It has heat and electrical service, but no running water, and is the smallest township library in the county system.

Mrs. Drodt said she was most pleased on election night that the question had passed both in the northern portion of the township, which would normally use the township's small branch library, as well as in the south, which might be more inclined to use the Bedford Branch Library.

Nancy Culpert, director of the Monroe County Library System, said she took away nothing but good feelings from the result of last week's library votes in Bedford and Ida townships.

“I think people want their [local] library to be a good library,” Mrs. Culpert said.

Mrs. Culpert said that, along with the good news in Bedford and Ida, the county system has relatively new branches in both Frenchtown and Erie townships, and is working with the city of Monroe on renovations to the Navarre Branch Library and with Carleton on renovations there.

And in Luna Pier, she said, officials are looking at converting a former truck terminal into a branch library.



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