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Council refuses to cede control of library project

When a motion at a New Richmond City Council meeting fails to receive a second, it’s not usually this dramatic.

District 3 Alderperson Roberta Dale-Wozniak spent nearly 10 minutes reading a prepared memo to the council before moving to grant exclusive control over the building of a new library to the city’s Library Board. No other council members offered to second the motion, which killed it without a discussion.

Dale-Wozniak’s five-page memo laid out history of the Friday Memorial Library’s space issues dating back as far as 2002, citing studies that were done then all the way to a preliminary plan for a new building on the library’s current site presented to the council in April 2013, which the council rejected.

The memo went on to discuss more recent frustrations with the process over September 2013 deadlines for a decision that the New Richmond School Board didn’t honor, and a new process being formed through an organization set up by City Administrator Mike Darrow called the “Commons Group.”

Citing multiple studies done since 2008, Dale-Wozniak’s memo made the case that the Commons site would clearly be a poor site for a new library and that spending more money to study it further is a waste of both money and time.

“The City has paid $56,445 for pre-design work at the current site and the Commons site. This included mechanical and engineering reviews of the structures. In fact, the Commons site has had two separate walkthroughs. Now it is being said that these reviews are insufficient because a structural engineer has not been involved. The following came in an email today from Cuningham Group — it will cost us an additional $9,300 to have a basic structural evaluation on the 1926 building — a building we do not own,” Dale-Wozniak wrote.

In a “Recent Developments and Issues” section of the memo, Dale-Wozniak revealed that a design from outside the city’s official RFP process in which Cuningham Group was awarded the contract, was “making the rounds” and “being pushed heavily by certain persons associated with the City.”

After the meeting, Mayor Fred Horne indicated he was the person Dale-Wozniak was referring to in the memo and that Scott Counter, president of Home Tec Designers and Builders, had created the alternate design.

“I have not paid Scott Counter. I did not reach out to Scott Counter and say ‘Hey, can you do this project?,’” Horne said. “Scott Counter did bring in some initial drawings, and my statement to Scott was, ‘I’m intrigued.’”

Dale-Wozniak indicated that for the Library Board to legally consider Counter’s proposal, it would have to be shared with the Cuningham Group, due to the contract the city had entered into. Counter has not shared his plan with the Cuningham Group.

At the end of her memo, Dale-Wozniak included a list of a dozen “Conclusions,” which closed with “The citizens of New Richmond and the surrounding communities deserve a vibrant, new Library that will meet our needs for 20-30 years into the future. This requires a new building, not cramming into an established footprint of a building that is crumbling and outdated.”

Dale-Wozniak said she was surprised and disappointed that every other council member was unwilling to discuss the issues in the memo, but she believed it was worthwhile to get the issues out in the open.

“I think it was really important,” Dale-Wozniak said after the meeting. “I think that much of the public has not understood how long this process has been going on, that there are studies out there that we can base some decisions off of, and that we need to have some final decisions.”

Horne, however, believed Monday’s meeting wasn’t the proper time for those discussions to take place.

“I don’t think discussion tonight would have been helpful,” Horne said. “Obviously, Bobbie is upset, and I don’t think she would be helping her cause by lashing out at the rest of the council.”

“The community needs to move forward together, not apart,” said District 4 Alderperson Jane Hansen after the meeting.

As for now, the next step in the process to build a new library in New Richmond will take place at a Feb. 19 meeting in which the Cuningham Group will present its design concepts for turning a portion of the Community Commons building into a library.

Dale-Wozniak’s entire memo is part of the Feb. 10 City Council meeting agenda available in its entirety at

Micheal Foley
Micheal Foley worked at RiverTown Multimedia from July 2013 to June 2015 as editor at the New Richmond News. 
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