West Chester library expansion takes another step forward: What it would include

The West Chester Twp. trustees are mulling building an addition on the MidPointe Library branch to include community gathering space. The township used $14 million in TIF funds to build the library in 2009.
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The West Chester Twp. trustees are mulling building an addition on the MidPointe Library branch to include community gathering space. The township used $14 million in TIF funds to build the library in 2009.

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

The MidPointe Library System will proceed with an architect’s plans and cost estimates for expanding the West Chester branch, a project that could cost the township as much as $5 million.

The trustee meeting room was packed Tuesday, mainly with seniors anxious to hear about a possible library expansion that could provide gathering space for them and other groups in the community.

Trustees Ann Becker and Mark Welch had a brief, lively debate over whether a project like this requires or should have voter approval. Welch roughly calculated the cost of a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot addition at $3.6 to $4.8 million.

“This needs vetting and I am pretty much of the opinion that when trustee boards start flipping the switch and spending millions of dollars, it’s best put on the ballot,” Welch said. “Because when it’s on the ballot then the people decide. There are a lot of seniors here tonight and I wonder if their taxes were going to be increased if they would vote for it.”

Becker said the trustees didn’t ask taxpayers if they wanted the township to spend $20 million on the new Union Centre Boulevard diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 75.

ExploreWest Chester could expand library location for more community gatherings

The topic of creating community space first arose in 2019 after the seniors were displaced from the Activity Center, which is the former library, on Cox Road. Community First, which ran senior programming at the center, decided not to renew its lease, and the township decided to sell the property.

The trustees had a $1.8 million purchase agreement with Regency Centers so a giant Kroger Marketplace could be built, but the deal fell through last summer. It is possibly being resurrected now.

The seniors began meeting at the library that fall but lost their gathering place when the coronavirus pandemic hit. The trustees approached the MidPointe library board about a possible addition earlier this year to create more space for the entire community to use.

The tentative plan is to expand the library’s children’s area and create new space that can be shared by community groups like the seniors and teenagers who use Lakota’s Edge teen centers.

“At this location the families use this library a lot,” MidPointe Executive Director Travis Bautz said. “If you’re ever in the building in summer, the months of June or July, it’s bonkers, it’s like Kings Island bonkers.”

The library has its own tax levy but the township built the library using tax increment financing funds in 2009. The cost was $2.1 million for the land and $12 million for construction. The library has a lease with the township and pays for upkeep and smaller capital projects. Bautz told the Journal-News the system can’t handle a capital project of this magnitude.

“There is no money in capital for an addition to be paid for by us,” Bautz said.

He said two-thirds of the budget, or around $9 million systemwide, comes from the state. The rest comes from the local tax levy. About $2 million is spent running the West Chester branch, and about $600,000 is for salaries and benefits. About $1 million has been used in recent years for upkeep and improvements.

The library offered to pay for the original library architect to do preliminary expansion plans.

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