Library foundation will not have initiative on August ballot

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By Justine McGuire
Williamston Post staff writer

WILLIAMSTON – Recent developments have caused the Williamston Community Library Foundation to back off the plan to have its proposal for a new library building on the ballot this August.

Wheatfield Township’s board of trustees continue to block the initiative by refusing to appoint a representative to the joint building authority.

“We’re going to move a little bit more slowly but more carefully and strategically,” said Jack Helder, the foundation’s president.

Helder said that the trustees of the township don’t think there is enough interest to make the cost worthwhile. To prove them wrong, the foundation plans to gather 200-300 signatures, which would be about a quarter of the township’s adult population.

He added that the initiative could possibly be on the ballot in early 2013.

Kathleen DeForest, the joint building authority representative for Williamston who worked at the Lansing Community College library for 30 years, said that the rise in taxes caused by the millage would probably hurt farmers in Wheatfield.

However, she says a new library would be an investment.

“Sometimes you need to invest in the future and it’s not always easy,” DeForest said. “I don’t want my taxes to go up but to be in a marketable area, an area that people want to move to, sometimes I have to submit to those taxes…It’s greater than a sole person, it’s how a community is built.”

Wheatfield treasurer, Holly Miller, in an interview for a previous article, said that the township has many reservations about the new library that go beyond a lack of support in the township, but she was unwilling to share those reservations.

Helder said: “It doesn’t mean that you don’t have a voice, it means that you do have a voice on how it looks, how much it costs, if (Wheatfield ) is not part of it then the people won’t have a voice.”

Becky Langham has worked at the Williamston Community Library for six years and said that the foundation has been trying to get a new library for at least 10 years.

She added that the current building is a big improvement compared to the old car dealership where the library used to be housed.

Less than a year after the library was moved, the old building was demolished by a tornado.

DeForest said: “I have a passion for libraries… I believe that Williamston deserves a good library. Some people say, ‘it’s for the children.’ It’s not for the children, everyone deserves a good library.”

It comes down to whether the affected communities really want a better library.

“I think it would happen if the community wanted it to happen,” Langham said. “The community needs to get organized and involved, if that doesn’t happen, I don’t see (a new library) happening.”

The foundation plans on reaching out to the community more effectively in the coming months.

Helder said: “Everyone on the board needs to know the community; we need more people that are knowledgeable in the community. Our community advocates really do know the community…they have relationships we don’t have, it’s not like there aren’t library supporters out there, we just don’t know where they are.”

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