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Posted on Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Superior Township frustrated with new library delay as Ypsilanti District Library revenues drop

By Tom Perkins


Superior Township residents and officials say the current Superior Township library building is too small and doesn't meet their needs.

Tom Perkins | For

Editor's note: This article has been edited to note that Superior Township bought land with the intention of building a community center and possibly adding a library. Mirada Jenkins' name has been corrected.

Superior Township resident Mirada Jenkins describes herself as a “library person.” She and her daughter visit the Ypsilanti Township branch of athe Ypsilanti District Library three times a week to use the computers, check out books, participate in reading groups or just relax in a space they’ve come to love.

“The library is part of our personal life,” she said.

But Jenkins says she doesn't go to the library near her home because the Superior Township building is cramped, the wait to get on the computers is long, the time limit for working on the computers is shorter than other YDL branches and the hours of operation are shorter.

“We just do not use that facility because in the amount of time that it takes to do anything over there, we can just drive across town to one of the other branches. If my daughter has to do a paper or anything, we might as well go across town,” Jenkins said.

Township officials regularly hear similar complaints from other residents and say it is worse for many residents who use the Harris Road and MacArthur Boulevard branch because they don’t have cars and there isn’t a bus route to get them to the other branches.

But declining revenue is putting plans for a new Superior Township library on hold — at least for now.

The YDL has $2 million in its fund balance and it will have nothing left in 2017 if it doesn’t make changes now. YDL director Jill Morey said the YDL has instituted a hiring freeze and is in the process of deciding other cost-saving measures as it prepares a new budget.

Of the $2 million in its fund balance, $1.6 million was designated for a service improvement fund, from which officials expected to draw money to build a 6,000-square-foot building that could expand to a 12,000-square-foot building for Superior Township.

But the economic downturn has severely affected the library’s funding despite voters approving a .38-mill tax increase for the library in 2010.

The previous millage generated $4.2 million in 2007, but that figure had dropped to $3.9 million in 2010. The increased millage generated $3.6 million in fiscal year 2012 and is projected to generate $3.5 million next fiscal year.

That has Superior Township officials upset because they contributed $578,000 to be a part of the YDL last year and have contributed $3.8 million through their 1.8874 mill tax since joining the YDL in 2006. They say they aren’t getting enough of a return on their investment.

“We deserve a larger facility for our residents and it’s very discouraging,” said Township Treasurer Brenda McKinney. “We feel that we’re not getting our fair share and we don’t know where our money is going.”

Township officials said they were under the impression the YDL board and leadership were ready to build a new building next summer. Township officials recently purchased a 12-acre parcel of land from the Willow Run School District for $140,000 to build a community center with the possibility of adding a library.

Superior Township Supervisor Bill McFarlane said the YDL was "enthusiastic and ready to build” a new building and planned to do so out of their fund balance.

“We thought the project was moving forward, we were optimistic ... ,” McFarlane said. “We called them and said ‘We’re ready to move on this.’ ”

But McFarlane said YDL officials presented their financial information that showed they were not ready to build because their fund balance was being used for operating costs and would be depleted by 2017.

“Clearly spending all your reserves on operations until they’re gone is not the solution,” McFarlane said. “Putting aside the fact that we are ready to build a building in our community, using all their reserves until they are gone is the more important issue.”

Jill Morey acknowledged the library is facing the prospect of depleting its fund balance by 2017, but said it is making adjustments to maintain the organization's financial health with a minimal impact on services. She said the YDL Board and staff are eager to build a new facility, but 90 percent of the libraries’ funding is tied to millages, which are affected by property values. Those have been dropping in recent years.


The library is housed in a former firehouse given to the YDL to use for free by Superior Township.

Tom Perkins | For

Morey said Superior Township is recovering from the economic downturn faster than the city of Ypsilanti, which still faces falling property revenues. She said projections show Ypsilanti Township’s property values flat lining, which she called a positive. But recovery is still slow.

Morey also pointed out that Superior Township residents use the Ypsilanti Township and downtown Ypsilanti facilities. Residents in those municipalities are paying off bonds used to fund the 68,000-square-foot building on Whittaker Road and renovate the aging downtown Ypsilanti Library. Superior Township residents are not.

She said the library board has always planned to build a new library in Superior Township, and it remains a top strategic priority, but it passed a resolution in May to delay the project. Morey also said she sent a letter to McFarlane explaining the situation while underscoring that the YDL still plans to build, and she thought the YDL's intentions were clear.

“Before the economic downturn, the unstated promise was the building would be done, but it became clear that to keep services at a certain level and to ride out the financial storm, it would have to be delayed,” Morey said. “It will happen, we’re still working with an architect and working with (Superior Township) Parks and Recreation. I can understand their disappointment but it just can’t happen right at this minute.”

Morey said the Superior Township branch, which costs around $160,000 annually to fund, sees around 23,000 visitors annually. There are 4,557 Superior Township residents with YDL cards. Morey said she believes the building is small for that kind of traffic, but the YDL still provides residents with a valuable service.

“The value of the YDL card is great when you consider everything that you can do with it” she said. “I realize that it’s not as great as having 6,000 or 12,000 (square foot) building there, but I think there are many things that residents there can access now. And we will certainly provide the building when the library board can provide the funds in the budget.”

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for



Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

For anyone who is interested, the Superior Township board and the Ypsilanti District Library board are having a public meeting tonight to discuss this issue. 6:00 November 14 at the Ypsilanti Township Recreation Center on Clark Road.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

"That has Superior Township officials upset because they contributed $578,000 to be a part of the YDL last year and have contributed $3.8 million through their 1.8874 mill tax since joining the YDL in 2006. They say they aren't getting enough of a return on their investment." Let's clear up something. The millage was put on the ballot for those that reside in the Plymouth, Ypsilanti, and Willow Run school districts. The funds are collected by Superior Township and passed on to the YDL. Superior Township itself doesn't contribute anything, it's a direct collection from the taxpayers to the YDL, just like the AADL millage is for those that live in Superior Township but are in the Ann Arbor School district, like myself. Superior Township officials are not happy about their residents experience with YDL, and YDL's not building a building that they verbally said they would. But this isn't a situation where Superior Township is funding directly. The difference is that if Superior Township was funding this via tax collection from its taxpayers, they could stop funding and stop collecting. However, that's not an option here.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

JNS, the Superior residents are not paying the construction bond that the rest of the district is paying. They were only asked to pay the operating millage, since they had no voice in the location of the Whittaker and Michigan Avenue facilities, which had already been constructed when they joined the district. This is why the funds for a location in Superior have to be saved from the operating millage funds rather than through a bond. Superior Township officials were well aware of this when their community was becoming a part of the district, but seem to have conveniently forgotten to communicate that part to their constituents and the press.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 2:42 a.m.

I think they are still paying off the construction of the YDLW after what? 5 years? I believe that once that is paid off then maybe a library. We did hear that YDLW caters more towards the youth groups and the YDLM caters more towards the teens. There is a budget towards necessity.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

It's simply not the case that YDL is "not building a building that they verbally said they would." The resolution that was passed in support of the land purchase reads that the current board of the YDL "states its intention to move forward with this project as soon as the library budget can support such an endeavor." The library budget can't support construction of a new facility at this time, as described in the article. That doesn't mean that it's not still a priority for YDL, although it would be surprising if they would want to partner with the township given these recent developments.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 2 p.m.

The caption says "The library is housed in a former firehouse given to the YDL to use for free by Superior Township." That's not quite accurate. The library is housed in a *room* in a building that's shared by the still-operational fire station. It's a very small space. The location is very convenient, and we love the library staff, but there just is not much room for books. My sixth-grader begs me to take him to the Michigan Ave or Whitaker Road branches instead because he says there's nothing left for him to read at the Superior branch. We usually go to the other branches or reserve books online and have them shipped to the Superior branch.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

What I am really hoping for is an AATA to the Whittaker Library. Getting tired of having to drive that long drive out there.

Ron Granger

Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

I love libraries. But it is a common practice for bad governments to "shoot the wad" building a new library and then surprise taxpayers with a huge bill for operating the library. Oh, you didn't think that millage included operating expenses? Silly taxpayer! That they went out and bought property before having a solid plan for the new library just shows how poor the leadership is. "Are my methods unsound?" "I don't see any method at all, sir."


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 1:26 a.m.

I am not sure that purchasing a piece of land on which to build a joint use facility in the future is mismanagement if it's clear that a community center and larger library are needed in that location. It seems like a wise investment, regardless of whether all the details of the plan have been worked out, or whether current revenues allow immediate construction.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

Sounds like independence is what Superior Township needs as far as a Library goes. Of course, with independence comes (Financial) responsibility.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

"Township officials regularly hear similar complaints from other residents and say it is worse for many residents who use the Harris Road and MacArthur Boulevard branch because they don't have cars and there isn't a bus route to get them to the other branches." This statement is false. AATA route 10 picks up right in front of the Superior location and drops at the Ypsilanti Transit Center, which is just a few blocks away from the Michigan Avenue facility.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.

If the new county wide transit plan passes in May, there will be bus service to the Whittaker Road facility.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

I agree that the Ypsi City library can be reached by bus....but not the Main library on Whittaker Rd. near Textile Rd. If any buses go there, I'm not aware of them.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

$160,000 to operate divided by 23,000 visitors = $6.95 per visitor per year (and I doubt it's never the same visitor). The 1.8874 mil has someone with a $200,000 house paying $188 a year, and that's JUST Superior township. How many branches are there in the whole YDL system? What mils are Ypsi residents paying for the library? It seems like there's money disappearing unless the other branches cost a LOT more to operate, or there are a LOT of branches. Tom, there are a LOT of spelling/grammar errors in here. Like a lot. Here are a couple: "Putting aide the fact they we are ready to build a building..."

Cindy Heflin

Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

That sentence has been corrected.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

Well said Cash. "We feel that we're not getting our fair share and we don't know where our money is going." That quote says it all. Remove the millage IMMEDIATELY. I'm a resident of Superior Township. We use the Ann Arbor library (Traverwood) for all our library needs. I pay for that in my taxes (1.55 mills). I had no idea that Superior Township had a millage for the Ypsilanti Library, since it's not visible on my tax bill and I moved her in 2007, apparently after the millage had passed. Why would Superior Township contribute $578,000 to the Ypsilanti Library last year, when our branch costs $160,000 annually? What am I missing? "We feel that we're not getting our fair share and we don't know where our money is going." Wow, that is very scary.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Colby is correct, I've discovered that today, which is why I didn't know of this millage.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Superior Township residents who live in the Ann Arbor school district are a part of the Ann Arbor District Library and pay only that millage. Residents of the other school districts in Superior pay only the Ypsilanti District Library millage , and are served by that library system.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

The city library isn't really the main library. That's the new one out in the township. My understanding is that the City had to fight to keep the downtown branch from closing.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

moved "here". I actually got a Ypsi card a few years back for the ONE book that we borrowed because no other library had it. That was the main library in downtown Ypsi. Crowded, and lots of people that appeared to be using it to stay warm. Never been there since.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

Well, perhaps Superior Township needs to stop the millage to YDL. In order to get this millage we, the taxpayers, were given all kinds of promises. Among those was a Superior Township Library. As it is now, every Superior Township taxpayer is subsidizing the libraries in Ypsilanti City and Ypsilanti Township. If we drop the millage, library users can opt for purchase of a library card for non-resident from Ann Arbor. Perhaps the township could negotiate a fee to pay to get a lower non-resident fee. That tiny closet on the corner that YDL calls a Superior Township Branch is a joke. If that is our share of the pie, we have been robbed! I think it's time to look at our options. This is a waste of our resources. Thanks for the informative article, Mr Perkins.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

There was another tiny library over off Glenwood and Ecorse. I was sadden to see it go but we, as the Superior people can do, is take the bus downtown and use the computers. We use the bus to get there all the time. Why waste gas. Enjoy what was given and quit complaining. The Michigan and the Whittaker are having their own issues. I will be voting for the mileage.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Who can start a vote to END a millage? What's the process for that?