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Safety key for library repairs

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Bartholomew County Public Library officials plan to limit renovations to the library plaza, for now, to safety issues and landscaping.

The library’s board had a public input session in May to gather ideas on what should be done to update the plaza, constructed with the library, which opened in 1969.

“We had lots of ideas put forth, but money is scarce this year and we have to prioritize,” said Library Director Beth Booth Poor.

Another public meeting had been scheduled for last week to discuss ideas from landscape architect Randy Royer and his company Blue Marble Design, but the library board decided to postpone the meeting until next year’s budget is finalized.

Poor said the library is in the early stages of budget planning for 2013 with a meeting with the Indiana Department of Government and Local Finance this week and a public hearing on its budget in August. The final budget will be approved in October.

Poor explained that the library is an autonomous taxing unit, with its budget and tax rate separate from the city and county budgets.

During the public meeting in May, some residents said they wanted the library plaza left as it is. Others wanted changes to make it a more inviting place for people to sit and spend time there, making it more a downtown gathering spot.

Poor said the first priority is to repair steps to ensure the safety of library patrons. Work needs done on the stairs on the Fifth Street side of the building and to the stairs that lead to the children’s department on the lower level.

“We still want to refresh the landscaping on the plaza,” Poor said, adding that some trees need replaced,including ones that died during this year’s drought.

Library Board President Beth Stroh said the library is an important community resource and making it safe and accessible is the first priority.

“We just feel like there are some necessary physical improvements that we need to do,” Stroh said.

Stroh added that the board will weigh other more aesthetic changes, keeping in mind the architectural significance of the library and the Fifth Street area.

The board does not want to take out a bond for changes at this point, Stroh said, so other physical improvements might be phased in over a period of time.

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