On Tuesday, February 3, 2015 the Glendale city council had a workshop session. On its agenda were 3 items: sale of the Foothills Library building to Midwestern University and its relocation to the Foothills Recreation and Aquatic Center; consideration of council support of a Certificate of Necessity application with the Arizona Department of Health Services for advanced life support ambulance transport services; and council consideration of moving their staff from classified to “at-will” employment.
Let’s begin with agenda item #1, the Foothills Library. Back in 1997 (I was not on city council at that time) the city purchased land from Midwestern University to build the Foothills Library. I do not have the original purchase contract but it was revealed at the workshop that there were restrictions within the purchase contract. Those restrictions included that the city after purchase, could only use the land for governmental purposes and if the city were to sell the land Midwestern not only has the first right of purchase but it also had final say in who could purchase it, if it was not Midwestern.
Apparently Midwestern came to the city in January of 2014 seeking to buy the building and land. The first point of note is that senior staff knew about this a year ago. Why didn’t they notify council immediately? Instead they moved forward with two appraisals of the property; one in March of 2014 valued at $3.4 million dollars and one in July of 2014 valued at $4.7 million dollars. By the time senior staff informed council it was November of 2014, election season and understandably council gave direction to table the item until a new council was seated in January of 2015.
Midwestern is offering $5 million dollars in cash for the purchase of the library and land. Never mind that it cost the city $7.8 million dollars to open the library doors. What about the artwork? Midwestern’s CEO, Kathleen Goeppinger, is an art collector. Every year when the Glendale Arts Council hosts its art show at Sahuaro Ranch, Goeppinger is invited to privately preview and purchase artwork from the show. One of the pieces of artwork at Foothills is the Dale Chilhuly glass art appraised at $400,000, the “Magic Doors” piece proposed for relocation to Velma Teague Library and a mural appraised at $85,000 and logistically unable to be moved. Midwestern wants the Chilhuly art to be included in the sale. The cost to relocate the Chilhuly to another Glendale building is $85,000 to $100,000 and if the building is sold, Glendale needs to retain this one of a kind piece and it’s relocation should be done from the proceeds of the sale.
There are impacts to the Foothills Aquatic and Recreation Center. The space that would be dedicated to the library hosts special interest classes. These would have to be relocated to another Glendale facility. Senior staff estimated (and it will go higher) that it would cost $900,000 to transform the FRAC space to accommodate the library and that includes proposed technology upgrades. City Manager Brenda Fischer got nervous enough to at one point to throw out the idea of expanding FRAC.
Midwestern mandated that this sale be completed by September 15, 2015. When it realized that city council may not be totally on board and was questioned about it further, they said that the city had until the end of 2015.
This is an idea driven totally by Midwestern University; not the city. The city sells the library, moves a much smaller library into FRAC, and retrofits FRAC or even expands it to accommodate the library. Watch all of the sale proceeds being expended to accomplish this move. Whatever proceeds are left go into the city’s General Fund where it can be used for anything…even the city’s sports related debt.
What can you do? Plenty. You can continue to email the mayor and city council about this proposal at:
There is a specially called meeting of the citizens’ Library Advisory Board tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015 at the city’s Main Library at 59th Avenue and Brown. Please note: Since this meeting was not properly posted it has been changes. Please make note of the new day and location. The special meeting of the Library Advisory Board is now scheduled for Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 6 PM at the Foothills Library.There is a public hearing portion of this meeting. The public, you, can speak at this meeting and voice your opinion on this proposal.
There will be a series of district meetings on this proposal. No dates or locations have been announced to date. When they are I will post them on this blog.
You need to stay aware, be informed and express your opinion to the mayor and council. A wave of non-support from the public should kill this proposal. It’s up to you. If you love your library you are going to have to get involved and fight for it.
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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