South Beloit citizens consider a new $4.9 million public library

SOUTH BELOIT, Ill. (WIFR) -- In two weeks, South Beloit citizens will have the opportunity to vote on a referendum authorizing a brand new expanded South Beloit Public Library. South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl and the South Beloit Public Library staff feel this is an important investment for the community.

"I see more opportunities coming down the road because we're willing to take a risk on ourselves," said Mayor Rehl.

If South Beloit citizens vote yes on the library referendum, this will authorize a $4.9 million bond issue that will allow the current South Beloit Public Library to expand and relocate to the Confluence Campus.

"It’s a wonderful location, so it would be convenient off of Blackhawk and Gardner Street and make a great entrance into the city. A library is kind of an anchor store for a community. Nothing else gets more foot traffic than a library. So that would be a great opportunity for the community to build off as well," said Doreen Dalman, the Director of the South Beloit Public Library.

The current public library has been working on getting a new building for years because it has many limitations.

"It has accessibility limitations, it's difficult for many people to get up our ramp our steps are steep, the doors are heavy. We don't have any meeting space at all, there's no tutoring space, and it’s really hard to do collaborative work here. A library is a community space, not just a warehouse for books anymore. It's not just about the collections that are in the library, it's about what you can do there. The collaboration that can happen and what kind of economic development could happen in that area with a library,” said Dalman.

The library currently is about 4,000 square feet but that number will triple in size to 12,000 square feet at the new facility.

Along with a new library, the final project will provide a new location for city hall and a community center where the city and library will share meeting space.

"City hall is inadequate on about 10 different levels. It's inaccessible, there's not near enough meeting space and it's inhospitable," said Mayor Rehl.

The total cost of the facility will be about $10 million.

"You're talking about a $10 million building that will serve the entire community in terms of a city hall, meeting space. It’s more than just a library, it’s a technology center, research center, an incubator for people who are interested into looking into new businesses, all kinds of things," said Mayor Rehl.

Mayor Rehl believes this new facility will not only provide new opportunities for its citizens but also help with economic development.

"We are willing to take a chance and spend on ourselves to make ourselves more attractive to industry, to commerce and to new families. I want the project to start soon because there are already some commercial entities that have shown interest if we begin to develop that property. I love all the other stuff that will come with this but I truly like the opportunity to kind of be the catalyst for future growth by the city investing in itself initially. That excites me, that's where I live," said Mayor Rehl.

If the referendum is approved, a homeowner with a home valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $8.05 per month for the life of the 20-year-bonds.

"We've got people who are cheerleaders and pushing us saying this is a good idea and it's about time, and we have the other part of the community that's very concerned about taxes and how that impacts their own budget," said Mayor Rehl.

"The citizens that actually use the library are overwhelmingly in favor of building a new library. Of course, there's going to be some opposition. No one likes to have their taxes go up, but we really do believe that it's going to be a great opportunity for the community and that it will raise the property values in the area. It will bring in economic development, so it will be a win-win all the way around in our book," said Dalman.

Residents can learn more about the project before the March 20 vote at a meeting at Nature at the Confluence on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.