Forest Park is home to a feisty and welcoming public library that understands well its mission of serving a wonderfully diverse town that makes a lot of demands on its small facility and nimble staff.
Now, as the "new" library ages toward its 25th anniversary, its board and administrators are in a conundrum. Normal wear and tear demands that some basic building systems — the roof, carpeting, bathrooms — need replacement or upgrading. These aren't cheap fixes. A new roof could hit $100,000.
While the library has been frugal and built up a $2 million reserve for such capital expenses, the looming reinvestments beg this basic question: How much money should be spent repairing a library that was too small from the day it opened in 1995? Where vital meeting spaces are cramped and overbooked. Where space for staff to do its work is extremely limited.
Do you put a roof on the current building or do you figure out the cost of adding a story to the existing building? Do you remake public bathrooms or do you explore the cost of a whole new building that might have a parking lot larger than three spaces?
Expanding or rebuilding will obviously cost more than the $2 million set aside currently. A major expansion will need a thoroughgoing plan and then a persuasive sales job to pass a tax referendum. Count us as among those who would need to be persuaded.
Library board members and administrators, a subset of which constitutes a "Special Building Project Committee," is just at the brainstorming phase of this interesting discussion. They promise to move thoughtfully and to seek wide input from the entire community.
That's smart and what we'd expect from a local institution that regularly displays a very good feel for this community.
The message of spoiled milk
You can scald the oatmeal. You can burn the fries to a crisp. And you can call it a one-off, bad day in the kitchen at the high school. But when, again, you offer our kids cartons of milk that are actively spoiled, then you have a bigger problem.
That's the situation in which Aramark Services, the unpopular food provider at Proviso East, has again put itself. In July, the school board hired Aramark for another year only because it felt backed into a corner. And the board heard loud and clear from a principal, Patrick Hardy, who felt the company's lousy food and service were a personal affront to his students.
What is obviously a probation school year for Aramark did focus this giant company's mind enough that they weren't serving spoiled milk yet again. And the reasons for the foul-up were far from assuring. A broken cooling system on a delivery truck was not immediately reported to Aramark. And then its own staff did not follow protocol and measure the milk's temperature on delivery.
Time for the administration to launch the search for a new vendor for the next school year. Hard to convince our students that we are watching out for them, raising expectations on them, when we can't even serve up lump-free milk.