The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday June 2nd

Town council imposes 60-day moratorium on public library expansion

Chapel Hill Town Council members imposed a 60-day moratorium on the expansion project for the public library after a local development offered to house the facility.

During the 60 days, Town Manager Roger Stancil will “flesh out” the details for a potential move to University Mall to give council members a better feel of what the project would entail.

“Sixty days is very ambitious,” he said. “I’m thinking in 60 days we could have negotiated with Madison-Marquette with the basics of what the deal would be and we would provide information to the council.”

The Chapel Hill Public Library was scheduled to begin operating out of University Mall in December as part of a temporary relocation. However, the mall’s owners offered to house the facility permanently in a Friday meeting.

The move to University Mall would save taxpayers as much as $4 million, but council members were hesitant to embrace the change.

“It may be to good to be true,” council member Gene Pease said. “I want to make sure we’re comparing apples to apples. What happens in the case of the bankruptcy of the mall? All of those issues I think are important.”

Madison-Marquette, current owners of the Dillard’s department store space where the library was slated to set up its temporary location, has differed significantly from the town in its predictions of the costs associated with the library’s move.

Accounting for the $1.3 million already spent in the design of the new facility, Madison-Marquette estimates the total cost of the move to be almost $9.6 million — about $1.7 million less than the total predicted by town staff.

One of the primary concerns of the council was the aesthetic the new building would take on.

“Conceptually, from the facts, it makes sense,” council member Donna Bell said. “Visually, I’m having a hard time imagining it. Aesthetically, Chapel Hill residents are expecting at least as good as what they have now.”

Debates over the library’s relocation were followed by discussion of the town’s yearly financial report for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The town’s total assets increased $7.8 million while long-term liabilities decreased $2.9 million.

Though town staff said real economic growth for the nation is not expected until mid-2011, Chapel Hill is experiencing an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, five percent less than the state’s unemployment rate.

“Though we’re not out of the woods yet, we are seeing signs of recovery,” said Ken Pennoyer, the town business management director. “The recovery is fragile and we need to see job growth.”

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