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Council debates space needs for community

Thanks to a newly completed facility needs analysis, the New Richmond City Council now know that extra space is needed for employees to work effectively.

Question now is, does the city have any money to do anything about it?

The firm Wold Architects was paid by the city to identify current and future space needs for city buildings.

In their report, outlined at Monday's City Council meeting, Wold's John McNamara and Lynae Schoen reported that the city would need to add about 12,000 square feet of office and garage space to bring current facilities to an acceptable level.

The biggest current need is for an expanded and improved street department shop and office facility.

"There is a large lack of storage for their equipment," Schoen said.

The total price tag for all the identified needs is about $3.8 million.

Other pressing needs include more space for the police department and adequate office space for certain employees.

The architects emphasized, however, that the fixes would only meet current needs. As the city continues to grow (to an estimated 13,000 residents by 2025), even more room will be needed for an expanding staff.

By 2025, the architects said, about 46,631 square feet of office and garage space would be needed by the city. The extra space would cost about $6.5 million to construct, they estimated.

Even though the city is aware of the street department issues, aldermen are having a tough time figuring out where money would come from for improvements.

The Finance Committee met Monday prior to the City Council meeting, and committee members said capital projects for 2009 should be capped at $1 million. They said the first priority should be reconstructing 140th Street along the city border, due to safety concerns.

Committee members also expect to spend next year's capital budget on possible construction of Richmond Way to the east, connecting with 140th Street.

That leaves the street department shop's earliest window of construction opportunity at 2011.

The Finance Committee has set a special meeting for Wednesday to discuss capital project priorities. If the city gets cooperation from the Town of Richmond Board on 140th Street improvement costs, that could be slated for work yet this year.

If the township doesn't support the project, Alderman Jim Zakowski suggested the city consider building Richmond Way to the east, just short of 140th Street, in anticipation of 140th being completed in 2010.

The committee will meet at 8 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Civic Center.

As far as the facility needs analysis, Wold Architects will now work with city employees and the City Council to determine what the next step should be in the process of addressing space concerns.

In other business:

• The noise problem at the New Richmond Sports Center could be getting a simple fix.

The City Council toyed with the idea of hiring a sound expert, at a cost of $7,000, to study the problem. Neighbors claim that amplified music levels have risen in recent years and disturbs their peace.

New Richmond Youth Hockey officials, however, have connected with a sound system expert from Roberts who agreed to try several low-cost ideas to see if he can correct the problem. The cost could be just a few hundred dollars.

• Mayor David Schnitzler signed a proclamation designating Feb. 23 as "B Company, 1-125th Infantry Day" in New Richmond. That's the day the local National Guard unit will head out for eventual deployment to Iraq. Area residents are asked to line Knowles Avenue at around 12:30 p.m. to wave farewell to the soldiers as they leave town on three buses.

• The City Council voted to hire 3D Strategies, Inc. of Eau Claire to develop a marketing plan for the community's commercial and industrial properties. The contract is for six months.

• The city approved the memorandum of understanding related to the future ownership of the current New Richmond Middle School building.

• The council members voted unanimously to grant Econofoods a Class A liquor and beer license for its expanding grocery store.

• The council approved the bid from Cenex to provide the city its fuel for the year.

• The council approved a temporary community service officer position for the police department. The person will be hired for the summer and will fill in for officers who will be gone for extended periods of time.

• Schnitzler was directed to form a committee to look at the future allocation of the city's $60,000 in room tax revenue.

• The council will study the idea of reducing or eliminating impact and access fees in a possible effort to spur development locally. Alderman Jim Johnston said he wasn't in favor of the idea, because the costs for expanding service will remain and other taxpayers will be forced to pick up the bill.

• The council approved a plan to remove asbestos-laden tile from the Civic Center lobby area and replace it with new, slip resistant tile.

• The council approved a $3,000 payment to the local VFW Post to help with the purchase of uniforms.

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