News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 17, 2014

Library board pursues new West branch site

Former child care center five times larger than current branch; renovations estimated at $500K

TERRE HAUTE — A former West Terre Haute day care center may become home to a new Vigo County Public Library branch thanks to action Monday night by the library’s board of directors.

In a 6-0 vote with one abstention, the board instructed library director Kristi Howe to take the initial steps needed to relocate the West Terre Haute branch, currently on National Avenue, into a former child care facility owned by (and adjacent to) the West Vigo Community Center, a not-for-profit organization.

The vote will allow the library to take some of the initial steps – including paying some limited professional fees — needed to obtain better cost estimates for a possible move, Howe said after the meeting Monday evening in the basement of the main branch downtown.

There is no money in the library’s 2014 budget to cover the bulk of the work needed to convert the facility into a library branch, Howe said.

Unless private fundraising turns up something remarkable this year, renovation is likely to wait until 2015, she said.

The cost of converting the 5,500-square-foot building into a library branch is currently estimated at about $600,000, according to figures provided to the library board in October. That figure includes library equipment and furnishings, Howe said.

The current West Vigo branch is 1,100 square feet.

A dozen or more people attended the board meeting urging board members to select the child care facility over another site the board was considering at Sixth Street and National Avenue in West Terre Haute. No one spoke in favor of the National Avenue location, the land for which was offered as a donation by Pat and Joe Minnis. Estimates for constructing and equipping a new library at that site were about $700,000.

Board member Pat Minnis abstained from Monday night’s vote.

The board’s decision “will preserve the Community Center,” said Bill Thomas, a member of the Vigo County Council whose district includes West Terre Haute. Due to financial struggles, the community center’s future had been “very much in jeopardy,” he said.

Having a library branch just a few yards from the Community Center will be a positive development for both, said Frank Hill, a former Community Center board president. Dozens of kids are at the Community Center each evening and will utilize the neighboring library, he said. Seniors also use the Community Center and will also make the short walk to the library, he said.

“There are two vital places in West Terre Haute,” Hill said. “The library and the Community Center.”

In 2011, the library board voted to drop consideration of the day care center, which is about four blocks north of National Avenue on Church Street, as a location for the west branch citing “title” issues. The management of the center denied any title problems at the time, however.

Title work, an appraisal and other work must still be done before the project can move forward, noted library board attorney Guille Cox.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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