After months of uncertainty, the Dayton Metro Library plans to begin work this summer on a $10 million East Dayton library branch on the Belmont High School grounds.
Dayton’s school board last week narrowly approved a development agreement by a 4-3 vote after spirited debate. The deal calls for Dayton Public Schools to sell a 2.75-acre parcel — currently the Belmont softball field — to the Dayton Metro Library for $204,531.
“I grew up not far from there — across the street from the East branch,” said library Executive Director Tim Kambitsch. “I know that these urban neighborhoods have lots of needs that aren’t easily apparent when you look at the broader sweep of a community. But the library is one of those assets that truly helps everyone in those neighborhoods.”
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The new library would sit at the corner of Wayne and Watervliet avenues, with an existing alley off Watervliet to be widened into a main entrance. The building would be 24,000 square feet, replacing smaller existing branches on Wyoming and further southeast on Watervliet.
The development agreement calls for Dayton Metro Library to construct a new softball field behind Belmont High School over the summer, along with a walking path between the school and the field.
Once that phase is finished, work on the library building would begin, with a goal to “substantially complete the new library within one year after the start of construction,” according to the agreement. Like other library construction, this would be paid via the tax levy that voters passed in 2012.
School board members Sheila Taylor, Adil Baguirov and John McManus voted against the deal. McManus said he wanted to leave room for future growth at Belmont. Baguirov cited issues with traffic and tree removal, plus opposition from some neighbors and Belmont employees, in arguing the library should be at a different site.
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Taylor, who has been the leading voice against the project, cited worries about safety, including balls from Belmont’s baseball field flying into the library parking lot. She said the new library would block school officials’ view of the RTA stop that had been a trouble spot for fights years ago, concerning some neighbors.
“We made promises with them when we built the new Belmont school that certain things would be solved,” Taylor said. “And now we’re allowing someone else to build on that property that’s going to reverse those problems that we solved.”
Board members Robert Walker, Ron Lee, Hazel Rountree and Joe Lacey voted for the library agreement. Rountree said the library could serve as a “beacon of hope,” comparing it to the new Northwest branch, which she said has had a great impact on that area. Lacey said the opportunities outweighed what he called “minor” concerns.
“I challenge especially the principal of Belmont to come up with programs to take advantage of the fact that you will be a stone’s throw from a Dayton (Metro) Library,” Lacey said.
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Both the library and the school district have two months to handle legal due diligence before the project can start. The library also will need approval from city of Dayton zoning officials. Kambitsch said the plan is to keep the Wyoming and Watervliet branches open until a few weeks before the new site opens, since those branches’ staffs and collections will be merged at the new library.
“I was confident that we would have support from the school board. As I’ve had conversations with plenty of other public entities, everybody wants to have a library nearby,” Kambitsch said. “Whether it is the young kids getting ready for kindergarten, the kids being successful in school ages, and even the adults, getting themselves ready for new jobs and careers … there are all these things that the library can add to.”