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The Board of Trustees for the Springfield-Greene County Library District began the process Thursday of choosing one of three options for expanding the Republic Branch Library. Members of the public did not get to see that evaluation.
The board entered into closed session for the discussion Thursday, closing the meeting to the public for reasons of real estate negotiations.
Springfield-Greene County Executive Director Regina Greer Cooper said the board closed the session because it needed to discuss the price of land offered by the Republic School District for one of the three options it considered.
“The board is not ready to make an announcement yet for the public,” Cooper said after the meeting. “We have some more things to work out.”
Three options, one requires a move northeast
The library system received about $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grants for the expansion of its Republic branch, and must use that money within a certain timeframe or risk losing it.
The library has three options for expansion in Republic. Two of those options involve its current location at 921 N. Lindsay Ave. It could add an auditorium and business center on the southern side of the existing library, or build a new, larger building to its north.
A third option would involve building a new library on a few acres of land just to the west of the U.S. Highway 60 and James River Freeway interchange, Cooper said. That land is currently owned by the Republic School District.
Making a selection involves a cost comparison of the three options. Because one of those options involves a real estate transaction, Cooper declined to give any details about any of the three options, including cost projections.
“We evaluated all the sites and had estimated prices,” Cooper said. “None of those are finalized prices, because we still have to talk to architects and engineers for each of the sites. The numbers looked pretty good, but we will have to do some fundraising. We are only getting $4.5 million in ARPA grants for this.”
Land owned by school district
The Republic School District bought a 78-acre tract of land west of the James River Expressway and U.S. Highway 60 interchange. The land was purchased for $3.6 million in December; voters in the school district the following April approved a $47 million bond issue for the construction of a new fifth- and sixth-grade building.
Republic Superintendent Matt Pearce said none of that land has been placed on the market for sale. The school district hopes to work with the library and the City of Republic, which owns neighboring land for parks.
“We have set in meetings with the city and the library, which has expressed an interest in potentially being near where the land is,” Pearce said. “If it works out, we can all have a win-win-win, but if the library goes in a different direction, that is just fine, as well.”
The properties are near a fast-developing area, centered around an Amazon distribution center. Several residential and commercial development plans are underway, including the $65 million Iron Grain District, a large mixed-use development located at State Highway MM and Sawyer Road.
Cooper said the idea for a Republic expansion has been floating around in conversation for years. It stems from a community visit organized by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, she said.
“We heard a lot about how the city of Republic is growing, and we also learned a lot about regionalism, and came back as a group thinking that it would be a good idea to work together,” Cooper said. “I thought we need a new library in Republic, because I was hearing them say they are growing, and we have only a 10,000-square-foot building there.”
Pearce said the school district is not actively selling the land it acquired, and would ask for a fair market value. A library-sized building could be built on 5 acres or fewer, he said.
“If we do some sort of deal, we would need to get our initial investment back,” Pearce said. “But we’re not going to get rid of that land at this point in time. If this moves forward … it would be a small amount of land.”
According to Chapter 610.021.2 of Missouri Revised Statutes, a governmental body may hold a closed discussion “where public knowledge of the transaction might adversely affect the consideration therefor.” The chapter is known as the state’s Sunshine Law, and encourages governmental boards to be as open and transparent as possible.