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Rockford's Main Library Is On The Move, Courtesy Of ComEd Customers

Jenna Dooley

Utility rate payers, not taxpayers, will help cover the cost to build a new library in downtown Rockford.

A gas plant operated at the current site of Rockford’s main library in the 1800s. Due to a series of mergers over the years, it's now the responsibility of utility company ComEd to clean up contaminated soil underneath the building.

Credit Jenna Dooley
ComEd spokesman George Gaulrapp and Rockford Library Executive Director Lynn Stainbrook outline the future of the downtown library.

The current library will be demolished, and the contents of the building will move to a temporary location while ComEd proceeds with the cleanup.

Then, ComEd will pay around $30 million on new construction for a permanent library at the original Wyman Street site near the Rock River.

Money to pay for cleanup and construction comes from an environmental surcharge found on utility bills for ComEd’s millions of northern Illinois customers.

Paul Logli, the library board president, says the negotiating process wasn’t fun, “but it was really as good as an experience as we could have had." Logli says both sides were flexible.

"I think the agreement really does reflect the best that could have come out of this situation,” Logli said.

Gail MacMillan, a remediation project manager for ComEd, says residents can feel confident in the cleanup plan, which was approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

“We have experience working in downtown areas, so we know the safety considerations before we even start," MacMillan said.

She expects remediation will take a year and a half to complete. The new replacement library is expected to open in the next three to five years.

An estimated 300,000 patrons visit the downtown library each year.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.