Gary Public Library board delays main branch renovation

2014-03-31T20:17:00Z 2014-03-31T22:54:09Z Gary Public Library board delays main branch renovationMatt Mikus matt.mikus@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com
March 31, 2014 8:17 pm  • 

GARY | A contentious public meeting, preceded by a shouting match in an almost two-hour executive session, left the Gary Public Library main branch renovation project in limbo last week.

Discussion could resume at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. today.

Tensions between two factions on the library board stem from whether the main library branch can be renovated in a way that still keeps all five of the branch libraries open.

Board members Sadie Sheffield, Nancy Valentine and Johnathan Boose want to renovate the main branch in a piecemeal approach.

Robert Buggs and Rayfield Fisher want to renovate the main branch all at once and have it reopen by the end of the year.

Part of the argument last week had to do with the bidding process.

Part of the library board said the bids were posted illegally without a majority vote. 

Other members, along with the library board attorney, said an earlier vote in 2013 to renovate the main branch was all that was needed for the library to post a bid request. Because the bids were opened during a public meeting, the only vote required was to choose the contractor's bid and to approve a contract.

"The law doesn't require another vote," board attorney Kelly White Gibson said. "The discrepancy is because members didn't show up to a special meeting."

Boose wasn't part of the bid discussion. He said he was told bids were approved at three different times: at a December special meeting, a January committee meeting and a January special meeting.

Only three members were present to discuss posting the bids publicly, and they called a fourth board member, who was absent, for her opinion.

"This process needs to be more transparent," Boose said. "Let's be honest with the public."

The bids were opened at a special meeting March 13.

Board members attempted to approve a contract from Gariup Construction for a total of $2.27 million, but a split vote prevented further action. Board President Mary Ann Canty-Reedus was not at the meeting.

Buggs, who led a citizen effort to stop the main branch from becoming a museum, said the bid request was completely legal.

"This is just a stall tactic, trying to keep us from moving forward with opening the main branch," Buggs said.

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