Friday, April 22, 2011
Few Expenses Spared for South Wing Remodeling of Detroit Public Library
Critics: $2.3M Detroit library project a symbol of waste amid budget crisis. (Detroit News, 4/22/2011)
Excerpt: Detroit Public Library officials say finances have grown so bad they could close most neighborhood branches, but in a few weeks plan to unveil a revamped wing of a main library that even administrators say spares few expenses.
The South Wing is stocked with 20 yellow and orange European lounge chairs that cost $1,092 apiece, artistic pendant light fixtures and two alcohol-burning fireplaces. The project morphed from a $300,000 furniture update to a $2.3 million overhaul with new floors, study rooms, lighting and built-in, wood-framed book shelves.
"$1,100 per chair is reckless spending for a public institution," said Todd Kelly, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1259, which represents 125 workers, including clerks, janitors and security staffers.
"It would be easier to swallow the current situation if we didn't see things like that."
It's not the only spending to come under question as the system considers closing up to 18 of 23 branches and laying off as many as 191 of 333 workers. A Detroit News review showed that, since 2008, the library has paid at least $160,000 to food vendors, including $1,760 at an ice-cream shop, and spent $1 million on 6 percent raises to union workers at a time counterparts in City Hall took 10 percent pay cuts.
Executive Director Jo Anne Mondowney agreed the South Wing renovation was costly and that too much has been spent on food. But she said she's only been on the job for about 19 months and isn't responsible for much of the spending.
Downward spiral. (4/16/2011)
Library reduces staff by 20%. (3/4/2011)
Budget woes. (2/5/2011)