Letters to the Editor: March 20, 2014
Council uses delay tactics
To the Editor:
The library board is prepared. City staff did its homework and came to the meeting prepared. The public expressed its needs and desires, both at the council meeting and in the community information sessions prior to it. Did the council members not come prepared or are they not convinced of the need because they do not use library services personally? Maybe they’re not poor enough, intellectually curious enough, or have never needed a space for their organization to gather? Perhaps they are still envisioning a space with rows of books waiting to be checked out. Libraries of today are so much more!
New Richmond needs a new library urgently. We do not need more public discussion about need and where to build. Ninety-nine percent of the information needed to make a decision is there. The community can’t go beyond a concept to begin to make actual plans. Actual costs can’t be calculated without choosing a site and making those plans. Fundraising requires knowing where the library will be built. If the council truly needs more information to choose a potential site, why didn’t they simply move to look at the question again in six weeks or two months?
Please council, do the work we have voted you to do. Make this the top priority you are dealing with today!
Ninette Nolen, New Richmond
Council decision was disappointing
To the Editor:
The March 10 New Richmond City Council meeting was incredibly frustrating and disappointing. Do people in this community care about and want a new library? Absolutely! Over their supper hour on a working day, they filled two meeting rooms to capacity and there were still many people standing in the hallways. And in the public comment period, every single person spoke in favor of a new library.
Why frustrating? Well, the city didn’t show anywhere in its many library exhibits, the voting results of its survey as to the new library location preferred by the community. In fact, until I publicly asked for the voting results, they were not disclosed at all. And, after my question, the mayor and council studiously ignored the whole subject. Voting results were conclusive – almost 80 percent of the voters want the library located at its current site.
Why did the city bother to survey the community for several weeks, with great publicity – with voting both online and ballot boxes at many locations throughout the community – if they didn’t want to disclose the results at the council meeting dealing with the new library? And then, why proceed to totally ignore the results of a vote they authorized and conducted, saying not one single word about them, pretending as if they never happened?
Frustrating? Ignoring the city’s expert planning consultant that said there were no real problems at either site, and it was only a matter of “community preference” between the two sites. They then refused to rule out a library at the Commons site – a location that 80 percent clearly and emphatically said we don’t want.
Frustrating? The only thing the Council decided was that more study is needed. The city staff put together a comprehensive 39-page “Library Project Analysis” well in advance for the mayor and council, as well as a PowerPoint presentation. And the architects hired by the city had studied the subject and presented their results. And the Library Board has been studying it for years and had long ago presented their results too. The community has acknowledged for more than 15 years that a new library is needed. How many more years of study are needed? If our children and grandchildren studied this way, they would never graduate!
Frustrating? Well, to the standing room only crowd that wasted three hours of their lives at an inconclusive meeting, it sure was. And to all the people who took the time and effort to vote and respond to the city’s request for comments, only to have their votes and thoughts ignored, it sure was.
Disappointing? During the public comment period several people said that before they moved here years ago they noticed the very poor library, and moved anyway because they understood a new library was to be built “soon.” How many other people don’t move here because of our noticeably poor library? When the new St. Croix Crossing is built, how many people will also notice and decide not to move here?
Jerry Pults, Town of Richmond
Commons site is a square peg
To the Editor:
After attending the City Council meeting on Monday, March 10, I have a few thoughts I would like to share. I can see the school district has a building that it needs to fill and get off its hands. I understand that problem is a real problem the city needs to deal with. When I look at the four options offered for the Commons, I do have a problem, however. To me, it looks like the proposed plans for using the Commons is forced; it’s like we are trying to fill a circle hole with a square peg. It seems like those four options for the future library site are trying to squeeze that library, the square peg, into something that just doesn’t quite fit. Sure, you can force that peg to fit, but I think it will be a mess.
I think it would be better if the city can wait until something comes along that will fit that site. I believe it will. New Richmond is growing and when that Stillwater bridge is finished I see some nice things happening in New Richmond. Patience may be a good thing here. Let’s not try and force something into that site that just doesn’t fit correctly just to fill the current void.
The current location with a new building that fits our community’s library needs makes more sense to me; I think it fits that hole with the right size and shape peg. I do agree there could be a bit of a problem with parking; however, even then I see a lot of parking available to the south of that site. The lot behind city hall, the street parking, and maybe even an agreement with the Methodist Church would allow close parking.
I did find it interesting that the city deems this street a major one for traffic when it only allows drivers to turn right onto Knowles Avenue. I find it a little hard to believe 4,000 cars a day travel in front of the current library only to have to take a right when they come to Knowles.
All in all, I love our library and love the staff. They go above and beyond the call of duty. I use the library weekly and to me it is one of the best assets the City of New Richmond has to offer. I have been to a lot of libraries and many have been very impersonal in going about their business. Not our library. I would like to see that continue and would like to see the community back the Library Board. I do believe New Richmond might have the best library in the state and while that has a lot to say about the staff it also has something to do with the board. I would listen to that board in this case. The library is their business after all and they have done a fabulous job for us so far.
Phil Karno, New Richmond
Library location needed first
To the Editor:
I am a resident of Star Prairie, a taxpayer, and have been a patron of the New Richmond Library since I was 7. I was a member of the St. Croix County Library Board for many years before the county disbanded it. I have watched with interest the development of the libraries at Hudson, River Falls, Roberts, Osceola, St. Croix Falls and Amery.
Before any upgrades and changes were made in these communities, one aspect was decided first: location. Building plans came next.
What determines location? The needs of the patrons the library is serving. Perhaps the greatest need in New Richmond is the availability for all. We are a mobile community. Parking determines access. Limited parking determines limited access to library materials.
Parking on County Road K (East First Street) leads to no access to South Knowles Avenue. Taking the shortcut behind the Gem Theater and crossing to Second Street through a city parking lot is dangerous. Residents on Arch Avenue do not want patrons to turn around in their driveways. Handicapped parking is extremely small, and the driver has to exit the vehicle in the street. It is difficult, sometimes impossible to park a handicapped van in that spot, and unload a wheelchair or motorized chair to the sidewalk.
In determining the placement of the New Richmond city library, the needs of the patrons should be the first priority.
Janet Knutson, Village of Star Prairie
Council turned a deaf ear
To the Editor:
I am truly disappointed in the action of the city council members, except for Bobbie Dale-Wozniak. I was under the impression that we elected them to observe our wishes. On Monday, March 10, they turned a deaf ear to the wishes of the people. Their minds were made up.
How can they know what the present site means to our community? Do they use the library? The building was designed by John W. Steinmann of Monticello, Wis.
The Library Board has studied the needs of the library, talked with the staff and come up with a proposal.
Our city library was once admired by most other libraries in the county, the newest (in 1963), the most inviting. Not boxes, but designed to conform to the park setting, as is the present plan the Library Board members propose. The school site not only costs more (as old buildings tend to do), but would require additional staffing, including salaries, retirement and health insurance.
I know New Richmond has outgrown the present facility, but don’t give up a beautiful site for a decrepit building and boxes. Let the school board, with its larger tax base, take care of its old building, not foist it on the city taxpayers.
People driving through town on Knowles Avenue see the park, the library and they see “The City Beautiful.”
Florence Railsback, Friday Memorial Library director (1970-1993), New Richmond
Positive attitudes needed
To the Editor:
The cows are in a rut and I’m not talking about a pothole. The New Richmond City Council meeting on March 10 presented way too much impervious surface in the way of attitude.
I have attended meetings where it was a fair bet that the barn would collapse at any moment due to the amount and rigor of the civil discourse going on. This is democracy at work. I have rarely seen an elected official who in one sentence could essentially tell the public that you are too stupid to find your way around town.
I believe that if you are going to build a crystal palace then the fundraising probably should have started 10 years ago and yes, as a resident I do expect the Library Board and Friends of the Library to have been leading the charge in raising money and not expecting the resident taxpayers to pick up the bill.
Now, when I built the new barn, I had a plan as to how it would be paid for, where it would sit, where the cows were going to be housed during the demolition and building process, how much the demolishing the old barn would be and a design plan for what was reasonably necessary and cost effective to accommodate my needs. I expected no less from the Library Board; but that didn’t happen. It seems to me the Library Board is more concerned with the design of the building than with what it takes to get it built.
As I watched the City Council meeting I begin to feel as though I was bathing in lime. Hell hath no fury like Alderwoman Bobbie Dale-Wozniak; slamming shut her folders and clearing her space following the defeat of her motion, followed by a push back from the council table with the look of a badger on the defense.
Dale-Wozniak voted no on the motion, which passed by Alderwoman Scottie Ard to bring the City Council, Library Board and community together to discuss and consider options for a library. This is not apples to apples; this is sour grapes.
It is time to move on with positive people and attitudes.
Mark Jackelen, New Richmond
Supports library’s current site
To the Editor:
I was very disappointed by the actions of the City Council on Monday, March 10. I had high hopes that the library issue would be resolved so that we could move forward with a fundraising campaign.
It is my feeling, and one shared by a number of others, that people will be more inclined to donate for the library if it is built at the current site. Glover Park and the library are an important part of our main street. Let’s keep New Richmond “The City Beautiful.”
Favor the recommendation of the Library Board and build at the current site.
Nancy Hansen, Secretary, Friends of the Library, New Richmond
Bricks and mortar
To the Editor:
Kudos to the New Richmond News for the editorial of March 13 regarding the library project. It described concisely all the work that had preceded the Monday meeting and explained how little can be accomplished without a site decision. The bricks and mortar plan will be site specific so at that point the City Council can approve, not approve, tweak, etc. the plan submitted.
If the council wants “the people” to decide it can give us a binding referendum. But until a site is chosen, there can be no grant writing, and fundraising will be ineffective. I hope the City Council will decide to move forward quickly.
Mary Jane Bridge, New Richmond
Vote for Johnson
To the Editor:
The Town of St. Joseph is lucky to have someone like Steve “Morrie” Johnson running for 3rd Supervisor.
I have known him for most of my life, and he is a man of strong principles, honesty and integrity. He will be outstanding on the St. Joseph Town Board. He brings a conservative, strong business background to this position.
We need someone who has the expertise and professional experience to make the best decisions that affect the future of the Town of St. Joseph. There is so much to be done with the St. Croix River Crossing and he will make the right decisions at the appropriate time.
Please get out and vote on April 1 for Steve “Morrie” Johnson!
Jim Elias, Town of St. Joseph
Elect Dan Hansen
To the Editor:
As many of you may know, I have chosen not to run for re-election to the St. Croix County Board so I could spend more time with my duties as mayor. I am grateful to the voters of St. Croix County District 12 for your confidence over the past six years. It was an honor representing you.
I have heard Dan Hansen speak at our Health and Human Services and County Budget hearings. I am impressed that while the County Board was dealing with emotional issues, Dan spoke about finding common ground between the two sides. Dan added to the civil discourse that local politics should be.
It saddens me that divisive politics is creeping into our non-partisan races. Though we may not always agree on issues, I believe we need to work together and find common ground with those who disagree with us. If we can not do this, we all lose.
I think New Richmond and St. Croix County will be well served with Dan on the St. Croix County Board.
Frederick Horne, current District 12 County, Board Supervisor and New Richmond Mayor
Re-elect Agnes Ring
To the Editor:
Two years ago voters elected Agnes Ring to the open District 2 seat on the St. Croix County Board. She was subsequently elected by her colleagues to be a member of the Administration Committee and Chairperson of the Community Development Committee – arguably two of the busiest and most wide-ranging of all the County Board committees. For the past two years, Agnes has delved into the issues of these two committees in great depth providing strong, unbiased leadership on the issues. She has also carefully considered issues from other committees as they’ve come before the County Board asking relevant questions and seeking information from all sides on which to ultimately base her decision - always with an eye on the future welfare of St. Croix County. In short, Agnes has been a hardworking, fair-minded representative for her district as well as the entire county.
That Agnes would be knowledgeable and concerned about St. Croix County would not come as a surprise to those who knew her prior to her election to the County Board. She was born and raised in St. Croix County – thus her eye to the welfare of the entire county. Growing up on a farm with eight siblings, she understands the issues facing farmers and farmland in the county firsthand. She married a lifelong resident of St. Croix County, Mark Vanasse, and when they made their home and started their own family, it was St. Croix County where they chose to settle. Few county residents have such strong ties to, and genuine concern for, St. Croix County.
Agnes’ community involvement and career experience have also given her abundant and relevant experience in matters being considered at the county level. She has held leadership positions in engineering and planning firms in the Twin Cities and in western Wisconsin. She has a broad base of relevant experience in land use and management issues.
The next two years will bring vital decisions before the St. Croix County Board - many relating to the St. Croix Crossing and many that will determine the character of the county and its financial security in the years to come. Agnes studies the issues to gain an in-depth understanding of policy implications. She listens to her constituents. She cares about the people of the county. Her experience dealing with similar concerns in different venues will be sorely needed as the county moves through the critical decisions ahead.
Residents of the Town of St. Joseph and the Town of Somerset, please join me in voting for Agnes Ring for County Board Supervisor in District 2.
Susan Heuiser, Hudson
To the Editor:
In the past two years, citizens of St. Croix County have come to understand our county government no longer works for them. The county mission is no longer “Service is our purpose.” The following four major decisions are negatively impacting our lives:
— The county fire-sold 550 acres of land held for 100 years, including 180 acres of prime commercial property, giving away millions of taxpayer dollars to developers.
— The county privatized St. Croix Industries, a 40-year model of continuum of care for disabled adults (knowing profits trumped care).
— The county offered for sale the Baldwin Ag Center specifically designed and built 15 years ago to serve the $550 million county agri-business.
— The county reduced our five-star nursing home beds from 72 to 50; now a large waiting list exists.
One big change in the past two years is implementation of a new county administrator organizational structure. This required a rewrite of all county rules and bylaws. This process has weakened, marginalized and minimized our elected county supervisors by transferring control of budgets, operations, sale of assets (land and property), etc. to the administrator.
I ask St. Croix County citizens, based on this performance, “Do we really want this top-down corporate organizational structure with one decision maker?” Our recent democratic government was managed with majority rule from the bottom up by citizens electing supervisors for decision-making. The current corporate organization in St. Croix County is completely at odds with democracy.
Please vote on April 1 for these new candidates who will represent democratic interests: Dan Hansen, Judy Achterhof, Paulette Anderson, Shaela Leibfried, Scott Nelson, Jill Berke, Howard Novotny, Roy Sjoberg and Chris Babbitt. Vote for incumbents Dave Ostness, Roger Larson, Ron Kiesler, Buck Malick, Agnes Ring and Bill Peavey.
Norm and Shirley Matzek, Hudson
Impacting kids for a lifetime
To the Editor:
Our future was impacted recently at the 21st annual New Richmond Middle School Career Fair. On behalf of New Richmond Middle School and the Career Fair Committee a heartfelt thank you to everyone for helping make our Career Fair a huge success!
Students had the privilege to choose from 35 different occupations and learn about what their future could possibly be like. The presenters went above and beyond by giving students hands-on opportunities to learn.
Thank you, presenters, for volunteering your time, energy and creativity to help make this a memorable event. We could not have done it without you!
Also, thank you to the different businesses for your financial support and for allowing your employees the time away to participate in our event. A special thank you also goes to Doyle’s Farm and Home of New Richmond for its donation to make this event possible.
All it took was a few minutes to impact a student for a lifetime. Thank you for helping to create a positive future!
Amanda Altmann, On behalf of the NRMS Career Fair Committee
St. Mary School thanks community
To the Editor:
From everyone on the Mardi Gras Committee, we would like to say thank you to everyone who donated their time, talents, and/or gifts to the Mardi Gras fundraiser this year. Without the generous support of our families, friends and community, this would not be possible. Mardi Gras has been an important fundraiser for St. Mary School for nearly 20 years. We are proud to be part of an event that brings together teachers, parents and community members to celebrate the school that celebrates our children. A special thank you to Master of Ceremonies John Jarchow, Auctioneer Jack Hines and to Ready Randy’s for allowing us to celebrate and promote our great community and school this year. The energy and support from our parishes and greater New Richmond community reassures us of our mission to continue to guide our city’s youth in word and action based on Christian values. Hope to see you next year and to celebrate with us!
Beth Utecht, St. Mary School Mardi Gras Committee
To the Editor:
In the final days of the legislative session, the Republican majority in the State Senate is focusing its attention on bills that will give them the advantage in coming fall elections when Gov. Scott Walker, half the Senate, and all the Assembly reps are up for election. On Wednesday, March 12, the Senate approved a plan to dramatically reduce the hours in which citizens can vote early but expanded the hours in which lobbyists can donate money to election campaigns. Also approved was legislation that reaffirms the ability of special interests to run issue ads during a campaign without disclosing who is paying for them. As usual, Wisconsin Republicans are giving new meaning to the phrase “dirty politics.”
Harlen Menk, Ellsworth