Ahrens: "The parts of the city that were built 50 or 60 years ago need attention and support."
Mayor Paul Soglin is expected to release his proposed 2014 budget next Tuesday, and Kathy Soukup hopes he shows some love for the east side.
Soukup circulated petitions urging the mayor to include money in the capital budget to help plan for a new Pinney Branch library. The cramped, heavily used library is currently renting space at 204 Cottage Grove Rd. for $11,756.05 a month (which includes maintenance and taxes). The lease expires in 2015.
Many neighborhood residents would like a new library built a few blocks away in the proposed Royster Corners, at Cottage Grove and Dempsey Roads. The developer, Ruedebusch Development & Construction, has offered to donate land for a library and help pay for some of the construction.
Says the company's Kyle Adams: "We think it'd be a great addition to the development."
But the project requires money for design and planning. Soukup fears the neighborhood will miss out. "In order for them to move from where they are, the planning money has to be in the 2014 budget," Soukup says. "We've got to do this while we can. The opportunity might be gone."
Ald. David Ahrens, who represents the neighborhood, says the library is one of the smallest branches in the system but the second most used, after Sequoya on the west side.
"It's just worn out," he says. "It's used very heavily, and it's just one space without a separate children's area or computer area. None of those areas exist."
Library director Greg Mickells says the library board requested $185,000 in next year's budget to help plan for a new Pinney. It wants at least 20,000 square feet of space, which would double the size. Not getting money next year, he says, "would realistically set us back" in the planning process.
The library currently leases four of its nine branches. "We are trying to move away from that model of leasing," Mickells says. "Libraries establish themselves at a location, and we know we're going to be around 20 or 30 years."
Soglin declined to comment on the budget before it is released on Tuesday. Ahrens says that based on conversations with the mayor's staff, he appears noncommittal about funding a new Pinney.
Ahrens worries that big-ticket items -- such as the Judge Doyle Square project downtown, expected to get a $25- $50 million subsidy -- will take precedence over neighborhood needs.
"The parts of the city that were built 50 or 60 years ago need attention and support," he says. "All these other big, downtown items -- will they crowd out everything else in the city?"