The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Posts Tagged ‘Cedar Rapids Public Library’

A detail spotted in a City Hall handout prompts library board president to launch a press release: Yes, she says, a new library will cost $45 million

In Cedar Rapids Public Library on June 24, 2009 at 3:51 pm

The City Council and the Linn County Board of Supervisors are working to prioritize a long list of 80-plus local projects, each of which would like a piece of $118.5 million still remaining in the state’s I-JOBS economic-stimulus pot.

Among the project details that have come to light as part of the I-JOBS competition is the fact that the Cedar Rapids Library Board of Directors has plans to build a new $45-million library to replace the flood-damaged one on First Street SE.

Susan Corrigan, library board president, defended the price tag on Tuesday evening when asked about it by a reporter at the city’s open house to discuss flood-damaged city buildings.

On Wednesday afternoon, Corrigan issued a press release to say the replacement cost for a new library will be $45 million, an amount that will cover a new building, materials, furnishing and parking.

Corrigan said the city expects to receive $22 million of that amount from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to replace the flood-damaged library. She noted that the state I-JOBS fund already has given the library $5 million, and she said the library will be seeking an additional $10 million from the I-JOBS program. Additional funds may come from the Vision Iowa program and from a private capital campaign, she said.

“FEMA will pay to build a new facility, but we owe it to the community to make our new library a smart, long-term investment,” Corrigan said.

The library board does not want to rebuild a new library on the site of the flood-damaged one. It’s preference is to get to higher downtown ground.

The library board envisions a 105,000 sq. ft. library to replace what had been an 85,000 sq. ft. one.

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Little tidbit of the past shows up for forward-looking library; past director Barkema wins jobless claim on top of $65,170 in severance benefits

In Cedar Rapids Public Library on April 21, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Much of the news about the city’s flood-damaged main library is forward-looking. The library board is now hoping for a spectacular new library at a new site to replace the empty, flood-damaged one on First Street SE.

The library board and the City Council last week said they will ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to approve their request to allow the city to build a new central library at a new location. FEMA can permit the building of a new facility at a new location if the existing building has sustained more than 50 percent damage. FEMA has concluded that the main library did in the 2008 flood.

The City Council will approve the letter to FEMA this week.

Another tinier tidbit of library information has surfaced this week, too. It is backward-looking.

The city has decided not to appeal an unemployment claim filed by former library director Lori Barkema.

Barkema resigned a year ago, leaving with $65,170 in severance benefits. The total included about $15,000 in unpaid leave and four months of salary and benefits, the city said then.

Barkema subsequently filed for jobless benefits. Initially, a state of Iowa claims representative denied her jobless claim, saying that she resigned voluntarily.

However, Barkema appealed the decision to a state administrative law judge. That judge, Steven Wise, ruled in Barkema’s favor in December. The city could have appealed the decision to the state Employment Appeal Board, but has chosen not to, Conni Huber, the city’s human resources director, noted on Tuesday.

In the administrative law judge’s decision, he concludes that Barkema did not really have a choice but to leave. The library board offered to let her resign in the face of what seemed likely termination, so she didn’t leave of her own choice, the judge says.

“To voluntarily quit means a claimant exercises a voluntary choice between remaining employed or discontinuing the employment relationship and chooses to leave employment,” Wise states in his December ruling. “The unemployment insurance rules provide a claimant has not voluntarily left employment if the claimant was compelled to resign when given the choice of resigning or being discharged.”

The ruling also provides a look into the process that led to Barkema’s departure from the library in April 2008.
The ruling says:

In January and February of 2008, the library board created an ad hoc committee to look at “concerns regarding” Barkema’s job performance. Barkema addressed the concerns with an action plan, a plan that the board found “inadequate.” The board then hired a consultant, John Langhorne, to evaluate matters.

Langhorne interviewed Barkema, library staff members and board members. He determined that a “significant lack of trust” between Barkema and the board and that the trust was “damaged beyond repair,” according to the administrative law judge’s ruling.

Langhorne and Joe Lock, a library board member on the board’s ad hoc personnel committee, then both met with Barkema. According to the judge’s ruling, Langhorne told Barkema she needed to resign or the board was going to terminate her. Lock knew that Barkema’s mother had recently died, and he suggested to her that “this would be a good reason to give the public for her resigning,” the judge’s ruling states.

The judge states Barkema “reasonably believed” that she had been given a choice, and she chose resignation over termination because she did not want to be discharged.

In an e-mail to Barkema’s attorney on April 23, 2008, the city’s attorney’s office stated that, “Lori was not asked to resign, but allowing her to resign and accepting it is very much part of the consideration here.”

She resigned and the library board accepted the resignation later that day, the ruling states.

An employer may be justified in discharging an employee, but the city presented no evidence of any misconduct by Barkema that would justify the denial of jobless benefits, the judge notes.

Seven at library laid off; flood that closed main library finally has caught up with them

In Cedar Rapids Public Library on April 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The city has laid off seven library employees, two full timers and five part-time employees. In total, it is the equivalent of four full-time employees, Conni Huber, the city’s human resources director, said on Friday.

One of the positions was eliminated as part of the city’s new budget, and the others who have lost jobs consisted of a supervisor and five employees who shelve books part time, Huber noted.

With the main library closed because of last June’s flood and not to be rebuilt for a couple years, the main library is operating in a much smaller, temporary setup at Westdale Mall.

“Since the volume of materials is greatly reduced, there is not enough work to keep them all busy,” Huber said.

In the aftermath of the June flood, Huber noted that some library personnel helped in a variety of other city departments, mostly in code enforcement. In addition, she said some library staff members have worked at the Marion and Hiawatha libraries to handle increased traffic from Cedar Rapids residents. And some library staff helped, too, in converting the former Osco’s space at Westdale Mall into the temporary library space.

“We now do not have those needs and so had to take this action,” Huber said.