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Letters to the Editor

LETTER: Vote 'yes' on Streator library referendum

To the Editor:

...At the General Primary Election to be held on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, the following proposition will be submitted to the voters of City of Streator, La Salle and Livingston counties: Shall the annual library tax for corporate purposes in the City of Streator be increased from 0.15% to 0.23%? The language is simple and direct. Can the Streator Public Library count on the support of the citizens of Streator?

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Brian Kmetz. I was a trustee of the Streator Public Library from September 1987 to June of 2018, around 31 years. During my tenure as a trustee, the library stayed within its budget and never asked for a tax increase. I am very proud of the library's fiscal record. Many building renovations were undertaken during those years. The annex was funded with bonds and the bond payments have been paid with the library's reserves with no tax increases. This was not a vanity project. The annex lifted the fire marshal's occupancy limits and made the library ADA compliant. The annex funding was the first time the library borrowed money. I don't know of any other institution that has been as fiscally responsible as the Streator Public Library.

The time has come that the needs of the building are going to exceed the budget and reserves of the library. The library has been very fortunate that there have been many generous patrons and donors to help fund projects. Charity has its limits, and those avenues are running out. An institution cannot do any serious long-range planning if it is depending on charity. I ask that the citizens of Streator to invest in the library. The increase in the library tax levy will help maintain the library's fiscal stability. The increases in taxes are minimal and the payback to the community will be significant and long term. To put things in perspective, there were more building upgrades and renovations during my tenure as a trustee 1987-2018 than all the years combined from 1903-1987. Deferred upgrades always cost much more in the long run as inflation and interest never stop. The trustees want to stay away from falling into this money trap. In 1903, it cost $24,000 to build the library. Today, $24,000 couldn't cover the cost to replace the roof, carpeting or the boiler.

The Streator Public Library is one of the very, very few original Carnegie libraries nationwide that are still operating. The library is on the National Register of Historical Places. It is the only building in town that is unchanged in both appearance and function from when it was built. The building overall is in very good shape but there is work that needs to be done. The dome still has soot from the 1945 fire that was contained to the boiler room. The skylight in the dome was removed because it was prone to leaking. The murals in the rotunda, painted by the same artist who painted the murals in the Illinois Capitol Building, are dull and dirty. The list is long, but the building's issues are not insurmountable. For a modest increase in revenue, great long-term projects can be completed that will keep the library viable for another 117 years. That's a very good deal for Streator and its taxpayers. The library is "The Jewel in the Crown" of Streator. We can keep that way for another century. Can we count on your support?

BRIAN KMETZ, of Streator

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