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City planning next steps for library site issue

Though the New Richmond City Council didn’t decide on a site for a new community library at its lengthy and much-hyped March 10 meeting, the city is hoping to move forward on the issue soon in the form of a joint meeting between the council and the Library Board.

“That meeting will focus on needs and other options, if there are any,” said City Administrator Mike Darrow. “The big thing is to understand things that everyone can agree upon and kind of take it from there.”

At the March 10 meeting, the council was presented with multiple pre-design concepts showing how a library could fit on both the current library site and the Community Commons property. Two motions — one to approve each site — were defeated by the council, and a third motion to further study the issue was approved.

Darrow didn’t expand on a specific timetable for when a library site decision could be made after an upcoming joint meeting.

“Our goal in this is to take it just one step at a time before we get too far ahead,” Darrow said. “One thing that I try to do is to make sure everybody has a good understanding of the next steps. I think the big thing is to make sure our joint group is working together.”

Working together may be a challenge for the joint group. Members of the Library Board strongly dislike the Community Commons site and strongly favor the site the Friday Memorial Library now occupies. However, only District 3 Alderwoman Roberta Dale-Wozniak, who also serves on the Library Board, was willing to cast a vote to approve that site during the March 10 council meeting.

Mayor Fred Horne acknowledged that many community members aren’t in favor of repurposing the 1926 portion of the school district building for a state-of-the-art library.

“I know people aren’t seeing the old middle school as a library site,” Horne said. “If we can’t sell that idea, maybe think of a brand new cleared site. How would that work? Maybe we could work with the school and some of the nonprofits that have space down there, because I would hate to kick them out.”

Horne also mentioned that there were new ideas for building at the current library site.

“I know there’s a couple new ideas out there, so not only are we seeing what Cuningham Group has come up with, but maybe we look at just doing an addition,” Horne said. “At the council meeting, there were some ideas of just putting an expansion onto the current building. Maybe there’s something there we can work on.”

No matter which site is eventually chosen, Horne said he hopes to keep the library in the downtown area.

“Whether it’s at the current site or a leveled middle school site, it’s still close to the downtown area,” Horne said. “I think that’s what the council is trying to look at to keep downtown growing and alive.”

Darrow said the joint meeting will take place sometime in the next three weeks and will be scheduled when Library Director Kim Hennings returns from vacation.

“I’m looking forward to that next joint meeting, because I think there’s a lot of good ideas out there,” Darrow said. “We just need to formulate a collective timeline together.”

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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