BELLEVILLE — After a contentious discussion on whether the library needed renovations and if the city should help pay, aldermen voted 10-5 Monday to contribute tax increment financing money.
Aldermen approved a contract with EWR Associates, the architects that will design the interior renovations.
The Belleville Public Library main branch will undergo a $344,000 renovation this winter.
The city's total contribution is expected to be $216,000 and will most be from TIF No. 3. Library Director Leander Spearman said $128,000 will come from private donations.
In coming weeks, the city will seek bids from contractors to perform the renovations. The project is slated to be finished by March.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult, Ward 4 Alderman Tim Carpenter, Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden, Ward 7 Alderwoman Lillian Schneider and Ward 8 Alderman Joe Orlet voted "no."
Hayden said he has nothing against the library but he thinks the money in TIF No. 3 should instead be used to fix roads and sidewalks or to improve technology systems in the Police Department.
There will be no one using the library if residents continue to move out of the city because of bad infrastructure and crime, Hayden said.
Mayor Mark Eckert said the library's carpet has to be replaced because it's worn in places that could lead to trip-and-fall hazards and lawsuits.
Eckert also said the city needs to maintain all its buildings -- the library is no different than the firehouse.
In response, Schneider said the city should consider charging the library for rent.
Hayden added that residents who pay into TIF No. 3 are being disproportionately charged. Instead, the library should raise taxes on all Belleville residents.
Ward 1 Alderman Ken Kinsella pointed out the city essentially decreased the library's tax revenue when it created the TIF district. He also said city taxes are the same regardless of where a resident lives.
A TIF district captures increases in property tax revenues without changing the tax rate and uses the additional taxes to pay for infrastructure or other redevelopment costs within the city.
Spearman said the library already increased taxes by 3 percent in May. He said the resulting $38,000 was necessary to pay for the last year of raises required by a three-year employee union contract negotiated before he became director.
Spearman said he already scaled down an initial plan for more than $700,000 in work to just the "essentials": new carpet, paint, main entrance, computer lab and relocation of the circulation desks.
Hult said she considers the proposed improvements "luxury items," and new circulation desks or new carpet are not safety issues.
The building at 121 E. Washington St. last got a $1 million facelift in 1998.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at email@example.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.