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Evansville considers purchasing post office for library expansion

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GINA R. HEINE
November 12, 2007
— Call it the domino effect.

Space is tight at the Eager Free Public Library, so it wants to expand.


The only way officials see of doing that is expanding to where the post office sits.


So the city must buy the post office building, and the post office would likely relocate downtown.


The finance and labor relations committee voted this week, recommending to the city council it buy the post office building, 16 S. First St.


“Eventually they’re going to have to expand,” committee chair and alderman Tom Cothard said. “This would be the best way to go.”


The city council will discuss and possibly vote on the purchase at its 6:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday at city hall, 31 S. Madison St.


The U.S. Postal Service has a lease on the building through 2009 with a renewal clause through 2014, postmaster Keith Weiss said, and it has not been in any negotiations about leaving before then.


While Weiss said negotiations are done on a regional level, he’s content with staying in the building through the end of the 2014 lease.


“At such a time that the building is sold and our lease is null and void, we would like a location in downtown,” he said.


A $200,000 purchase price has been discussed, but Roger Berg, who owns the building with Rob Pettersen, said neither side has negotiated yet.


There is another legitimate buyer interested, Berg said, but if the city doesn’t buy it, the library really wouldn’t be able to grow.


“All I want is a reasonable sale from them (the city),” he said.


A city appraisal of the building is under way, but City Administrator Dan Wietecha said he’s not sure it will be ready in time for Tuesday’s meeting.


If the city bought the building, it would continue leasing the building to the Postal Service, which would help pay for the purchase, he said. The Postal Service’s current rent is $16,800 per year, he said.


Money for the purchase was budgeted for a year from now, but the city could receive a low-interest loan from the state trust fund rather than issuing bonds, he said.


“As things proceed, (it will) force a couple questions,” Wietecha said. “Are they interested in leaving sooner? Are we interested in waiting that long? If they don’t want to leave sooner, and we don’t want to wait longer, are we interested in relocating them sooner?”


The capital improvement plan budgets nearly $2 million for library expansion in 2010.


That’s welcome news for library director Kathi Kemp-Tejeda, who said space is so tight it’s affecting the library’s new purchases. The library doubled in size during expansion 12 years ago, but it’s still not enough with the high demand for resources and meeting space in such a growing community, she said.


Library staff is finding ways to ease the crunch, such as replacing shorter bookshelves with taller ones.


“We have to respond to the growth of the city,” Kemp-Tejeda said.


The only way to remain in the current library and expand is to build where the post office is, she said.


“It’s a jewel in the city,” she said. “I can’t see ever leaving this building.”



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