Non-appointment fuels dispute between Wheaton library, city

Published: 7/5/2010 12:01 AM

A Wheaton Public Library board member's decision to support closing the library on Fridays could cost her a seat on the panel.

Carri Peterson has been told by Mayor Michael Gresk - the neighbor who appointed Peterson to the library board three years ago - that her service is no longer needed.

Instead, Gresk wants to appoint two new library board members now that three of the nine seats are up for reappointment.

In addition to recommending someone for Peterson's seat, Gresk is looking to replace Martin L. Kyle, who retired. The only sitting library trustee the mayor supports for reappointment is Stacy Slater.

"There is a message there," said Gresk, adding that city council members are expected to vote Tuesday on his selected appointments.

Unlike Slater, Peterson was one of the trustees who backed the plan to close the library on Fridays - a decision that's been highly criticized by the city council.

In fact, most council members are so upset by the Friday closings they are seeking a local law to reverse it. They also are considering slashing the term of future library board members from three years to two.

Still, Gresk's decision not to support her reappointment surprised Peterson.

"I have learned a lot over the past three years," Peterson said. "I've gained a lot of knowledge about the workings of the library. It's kind of a shame for that to go to waste."

Gresk described Peterson as "a wonderful volunteer" who has been a "friend of the library for many years."

Still, Gresk said, "we just need to have a different approach to the way the library board makes their decisions."

The mayor said his two new appointees - Barbara Wonser and Bruce Fogerty - will serve well. Wonser is "a longtime community volunteer, activist and supporter," he said. Fogerty, who serves on Wheaton's historic commission, would have to resign from that post to be on the library board.

"I am just happy to be able to nominate them," Gresk said. "Hopefully, I'll get the support from my colleagues on the city council and get it done."

Peterson said she hopes "there's still some chance" for city officials to reconsider her removal from the library board.

"We are an intelligent group that should be allowed to make decisions," she said, "whether the council is entirely happy with them or not."

Library board President Colleen McLaughlin said she wants the entire dispute between the city and library officials to come to an end.

She's considering calling a special meeting so the library board can vote to reopen on Fridays.

McLaughlin said restoring Friday hours at the library without the extra funding wouldn't be simple. She said other days would have to be shortened to make up the difference.

Still, she said, she can't see another resolution.

"I think it's a shame that we're being forced to open on Fridays," McLaughlin said. "But it would be unsupportable to spend public funds getting into some kind of legal battle over this situation."