Chelsea changes library plans

While the city of Chelsea originally planned to begin building a permanent public library this year, the economy has made that goal impossible, said Mayor Earl Niven.

Instead, the city has purchased a house directly across the street from City Hall with the intent to move the library there for the time being. The city paid $250,000 for the house and half an acre of property, Niven said.

“The house will give another 40 percent more wall space for shelves than in our current library,” Niven said. “That is going to allow us another four or five years for the economy to get better.”

The Chelsea Public Library is currently housed in City Hall. The current library space will become an auxiliary room for the library, offering space for reading groups and activities.

The library’s collection will be moved within 6-8 months. The city will take possession of the house Dec. 1, at which point another room will be added to expand space for the library.

When the permanent library is built, the house will be converted into a museum or possibly a chamber of commerce, Niven said.

“There’s an immediate need for that building, as well as a long-term plan,” he said.

The city holds a bond issue of $3.4 million, which is financing the new fire station currently under construction, the house for the temporary library and the city’s purchase of 19 acres of land for recreational ball fields. City officials are also paying off a $1 million mortgage on other city-owned property with funds from the bond issue, Niven said.

Chelsea is also looking to buy additional land for recreational ball fields. City officials are currently negotiating to purchase 27 acres of land near the present ball fields on Shelby County 47. The bond issue would also cover that purchase.

“We’re able to do this because our economy in Chelsea has taken a hit in the last two years, but we’ve stabilized. I feel like the economy’s on an upward swing,” Niven said. “We’ll still be conservative spending our money so that all these things we’re doing will be paid for.”

After the new fire station is complete, the city council must decide which of two large capital projects to start on next: the permanent library or a community center, which would house senior citizens, a basketball court, a walking track and meeting rooms.

Niven said the city council is keeping an eye on the vision for Chelsea’s smart growth.

“We have always had a vision for Chelsea. The majority of people coming to Chelsea now are young married couples with children. When you have lots of children in your community, you need ball fields, you need good education, and you need libraries,” he said. “If we wait until we need these things, it’s too late. We have to make decisions today to bring our community to where it needs to be to provide these services.”