This article by Greg Normand originally appeared in the June 26th, 2000 issue of The Citizen Newspaper, Ortonville, MI
History often repeats itself
If you study history, especially local lore, you'll find our forefathers had a fairly severe bent on education. Apparently, northern Oakland County was one of those educational hotbeds because it was populated with more than its share of one-room schools. Our forefathers were big on reading and writing because they provided for the first library in northern Oakland County. There's plenty of written evidence that those who settled here in Ortonville placed a high premium on education and the literary word.
The staunch stance on education has been a hallmark of our community and it continues today in our classrooms and in our homes. One of the obvious signs of a successful community is how it treats and deals with the education of its children and without getting too corny, we've done a pretty good job in the past 150 years and the trend continues today.
Take the new library for example. Brandon Township voters overwhelmingly approved the $3.6 million library bond in 1998 because they believed in education and their children's future. Yes, there were the naysayers who railed about increasing local taxes and there was some opponents of the new library who complained about a growing government, but for the most part the community rallied around a single theme that would benefit the masses and jumped on board.
And like the old days, the vision of success didn't come without the involvement of community leaders who viewed opportunity from the glass being half full. You might not know the local story I am about to tell because there wasn't much publicity about it at the time of the event. But it's a tale worth repeating.
In researching a story about the new library this past week, Brandon Township Library Board President Margaret Lee told me the reason there's been bricks and mortar erected in an old school parking lot is because two guys took the time to care enough about building something that would benefit the community. Lee told me that for five years the library board tried in vein to secure a location in the township to build a library. The board had the money, knew the community would probably approve a bond, but lacked a place to build it.
As in any real estate transaction where the only thing that matters is location, location, location, Lee and the board pushed ahead, but were always stalled because of...you guessed it, location. She told me the board talked with property owners. If the price was right for the property, then the parcel was located on a gravel road. The library board had a hard time finding a piece of land that met its criteria. Lee said the library board was turned down more than once until a fateful meeting between a concerned husband and a local superintendent.
Robert Gavey, the husband of head librarian Joanne Foster-Gavey, made a call on Brandon School superintendent Bart Jenniches. Gavey, a real estate consultant, laid out a plan for Jenniches about building a library in the parking lot of the Brandon-Fletcher Intermediate School. He mentioned to Jenniches that the library board had already been turned down by the previous administration, but concentrated his presentation on the obvious assets of the plan.
How does a new library located within walking distance of four local schools sound? Jenniches must have believed like some of our forefathers that it was a great idea to support education because he backed the project and even made the suggestion that the district sell the land to the library board for one dollar.
As you know, the rest is history and sometime this winter, approximately the first week of December, we'll all stream into the new library that will serve us for a good many years. And who do we have to thank for such a wonderful event... a few community leaders who believed, a library board who persevered, the taxpayers and a couple of concerned people who dismissed the word impossible from their vocabulary.
Greg Normand can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org