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This photo of Scott Counter's presentation shows Counter's concept design for the third floor of the Community Commons building, which includes a 200-seat auditorium. (Photo by Jordan Willi)

Local building designer mired in library flap

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news New Richmond, 54017
New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

Scott Counter, president of Home Tec Designers and Builders Inc., has found himself at the center of a flap that went public at a New Richmond City Council meeting last week.

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District 3 Alderperson Roberta Dale-Wozniak, who also serves on the Library Board, took nearly 10 minutes of the Feb. 10 council meeting to read a prepared memo criticizing the council’s unwillingness to rule out the Community Commons as a potential site for a future library. Without naming any individuals, her memo called into question the legality of Mayor Fred Horne promoting a library concept design by Counter despite the fact that the city has a contract with Cuningham Group for that purpose.

Counter confirmed that he had prepared a concept design on his own for a library at the Community Commons site, but he declined to provide it to The News.

“I would love to talk about this, and I intend to at some point, but the problem I’m in right now is that for whatever reason I have very much upset the Library Board,” Counter said. “I’m trying desperately first to make contact or reach out a branch to try to get them to discuss this or at least let me present so they see it before I go saying too much publicly.”

Counter also said that no one asked him to prepare the library design and he has not been paid for the work.

“This has been totally voluntary on my part,” Counter said. “The library project was something I branched out on my own and did, because I saw opportunities there that I wanted to express, and I went about putting a preliminary concept together.”

Counter said he began the project last fall and had it ready for review around Thanksgiving.

“I was kind of given a gag order from the city administrator and the mayor temporarily until Cuningham Group was given the ability to finish their portion of a paid-for project,” Counter said. “I totally disagreed with that, because I’m very much for transparency. When something comes out, they should have been informed right away. I really feel the Library Board has been slighted in that respect that they should have been informed right away.”

At the Feb. 4 Library Board meeting, multiple members of the board expressed that Counter would have to submit his concept to Cuningham Group in order for the board to abide by its contract.

Counter said he has tried to work with the Cuningham Group, but the firm largely dismissed what he had to say.

“The person talking to me sounded annoyed in his tone,” Counter said.

Cuningham Group was scheduled to present its own concept designs to the Commons Group on Wednesday, Feb. 19, fulfilling its contract with the city.

Though Counter wouldn’t directly share his concept sketches with The News, it didn’t stop him from presenting his concept at the Vision 2020 meeting on Tuesday morning with a reporter present.

Counter’s concept calls for a two-floor library with an optional third floor that could be used by the library or rented out. The first floor of the plan was designed with an open concept to allow library staff a full view of the building. To accomplish this a portion of the second floor would need to be removed. The remaining portion of the second floor would house computers, study spaces, staff offices and meeting rooms. The third floor includes a 200-seat auditorium. All books would be stored on the first floor.

Major changes to the exterior would include the addition of a foyer with an elevator on the south side of the building and an expanded parking lot.

Counter’s concept presentation did not include any cost estimates, but he said he favors repurposing existing structures to demolishing old buildings and paying to construct new ones.

“All my concern is what’s in the best interest of the community,” Counter said. “I have no other motive to this at all. It’s all about the reuse of our existing municipal inventory of buildings. If they reuse the 1926 building for a library, then we can repurpose Friday Library building. It’s just a win-win situation.”

Jordan Willi contributed to this report.

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