BY GLENN PUIT
KALKASKA — Patty Sumpter finds great value in the Kalkaska County Library, but she sees one big problem with the building built for books.
It's way too small.
"The library is cramped," Sumpter said. "If we have a presentation, you go to the basement because it's the only place you can even meet. We need more space. A bigger, better library with way better parking."
Kalkaska County's Board of Commissioners last week agreed to put a library question to voters. Residents will decide in May whether to approve a 0.87 mil to fund a new library and replace an existing 0.25 mil.
Library Board President Mike Moran said the new library will cost approximately $3.7 million to build, furnish and equip. The millage also would fund annual operations and pay back debt on municipal bonds needed for the project.
Moran said a property owner with a state equalized home value of $50,000 would pay about $43.50 a year to fund the library.
"The library is so much more than just a repository for books," Moran said. "It's a center of culture and learning for a community, and it is incredibly important to the education of our children."
Bradley Chaplin, county library director, said he also believes a new library is badly needed. A new facility would be built on county land directly behind Birch Street Elementary School. The new location would allow kids to go to the library straight from school.
Right now, if kids want to go to the library, many face walking across U.S. 131 to get to the old library at 247 S. Cedar St.
"Our old building is compromised in a lot of areas," Chaplin said. "We have a foundation in the lower level that's bowing inward, and we have water that leaks down into the basement. We are always fighting mold problems and things detrimental to people and books."
Whether the millage will be approved is anyone's guess. Surveys done by the county show public support for a new library, but it's far from clear if that translates into voter support.
"I think it's a wonderful idea but I don't know if it's going to pass or not," said county Commissioner Patty Cox. "I'm a retired teacher and the people I taught with are very supportive of it. But there are also folks who are retired and on limited incomes, and they are not real hot to increase their taxes. So, who knows how it's going to go."