Library fight playing out in Georgetown Twp.

Georgetown Township library
The crammed shelves of the Georgetown Township library. (Feb. 12, 2018)


GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Plans to build a new library in Georgetown Township were approved during the township’s first board meeting of the year.

The plan calls for a new two-story, $12 million library to go up adjacent to the current one at 1525 Baldwin St. The old building would later be demolished and the space would be used for parking.

“We are a growing community,” Library Director Rob Bristow told 24 Hour News 8 Monday. “As you look around, you can see that the shelves are very crammed.

“This building built 30 years ago wasn’t made for the kind of technological advances that we’ve seen over the last 30 years,” he added.

Township leaders say hundreds have voiced their opposition to the plan. Critics say the price tag on the project is too high and the plan wastes the building currently housing the library.

“You’re always concerned with taxes,” Norma VanDam, a regular at the library, told 24 Hour News 8. “I’m a retired person, limited income, and you try to stay within your budget.”

Some have also voiced concerns about how the township handled the process. The meeting to approve the plan was the township board’s first of the year. The second meeting of the year was canceled. Township Assistant Superintendent Rod Weersing told 24 Hour News 8 that meeting cancellations happen a few times each year. He said this one was due to a lack of agenda items.

Critics also point to the failure of a 2014 bond proposal as evidence that the community does not support spending millions on a new library. That proposal sought voter approval for a new township complex that would have included a library, community center and new offices.

“I think there were a lot of reasons why that millage didn’t pass that really didn’t have to do with the library itself,” Bristow said.

The new plan will use funds from multiple sources, including lease monies from cellphone towers, the sale of township-owned property and cash on hand. Because there is no millage or bond request, there will be no public vote.

Those critical of the plan said they would attend Monday’s township meeting.

Others say they look forward to seeing the new library.

“I’m just one of those people that’s in support of building up our community even if it costs a little bit more,” Kate Byer Walter, a Georgetown Township resident, told 24 Hour News 8 as she left the library.