HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) — The mayor of Highland Park demands answers after funds raised to renovate a deteriorating library go missing.
"We need to give our children every opportunity to be all that they can be," said Mayor Hubert Yopp. "I think those that would take money from that library should be penalized.”
Inside the Highland Park McGregor Public Library, a massive renovation project is required to re-open doors. However, the city's mayor is raising troubling questions about a large amount of missing money and a mysterious fundraiser that left the community heartbroken.
"Do I feel cheated? Yes, I feel cheated," Yopp said. "Not only for my grandson, but this community.”
Yopp grew up in the city he now leads. He recalls being a student and coming here to the McGregor Public Library to do his homework assignments.
“Highland Park was the model city of the continental United States,” he said. “As I stated, I did my homework in that library. For those children in this community who don’t have a computer, they’re hurting.”
Those fond memories are a far cry from how things have looked since 2002. Amid economic decline and financial hardship that put the city through bankruptcy and state oversight, the prized library was forced to close. The clock stopped inside the building, with books left on shelves gathering dust and paint peeling off the walls.
“The library has got to be completely overhauled,” Yopp said. “Our library needs to be reopened. This is an indigent community.”
Even more troubling are the efforts to restore this library that has gone nowhere.
For instance, in 2009, Hollywood actor Danny Glover came the McGregor library to make a movie called "Highland Park." It's about the reopening of this very library. And at this location, that's since changed owners in downtown Detroit, Mayor Yopp says a fundraiser raised roughly $200,000 from more than 100 people who paid $100 each to get a signed photo with Glover. The mayor brought two relatives and paid $300 just like celebrities and well known athletes with roots in Highland Park.
“It was a good night out and a ton of people," Yopp said. "People were lined up to get in the building at $100 a wop.”
However, somehow, Yopp says almost all the money raised vanished. Then there were the promised grant funds from former Governor Jennifer Granholm out of Lansing in December 2010.
“Governor Granholm talks about 300k, 200k, 100k, grants she spoke on designated for the city of Highland Park library,” Yopp said.
He added that it's still unclear if the city ever got a penny that state leaders pledged to put to use here at the library.
“Some legal investigative body needs to take a look at this,” Yopp said.
Acting on behalf of his constituents, the city's top leader says he still wants to find a way to raise at least $2 million to renovate the McGregor Library. After all these years, Mayor Yopp says it's time for the library to once agains become an open book for the community to enjoy.