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Our View: Council must decide soon on library site

The New Richmond City Council’s 5-1 vote to table the library site issue on Monday and seek further information on costs was disappointing.

Members of the council didn’t have to decide on a final design and all the costs associated with it. They didn’t have to decide on exactly where handicap parking would sit or how a drive-through book drop would be situated, or what color the building should be.

They were simply tasked with choosing a site on which to build a library while all the details, including budget line items, could be addressed during a design process.

City staff prepared a thorough and exhaustive memo to the council members. Experts from the Cuningham Group architecture firm came to the conclusion that both the current library site and the Community Commons site could be viable for a new library. The city’s expert planning consultant said neither site had “red flags” and it was a matter of “community preference.” City staff solicited public input, and members of the community addressed the council directly at the meeting.

Apparently none of that mattered.

Council members are wise to factor apparent costs into such a decision, but it’s unclear what additional cost estimates could be provided without delving far into comprehensive design work.

At some point, the costs of continued study and lost time outweigh the benefits of a perfect analysis. Look no further than the St. Croix Crossing project, which could have been built for tens of millions of dollars less if it were built a decade or two earlier.

Meanwhile, the costs of hiring consultants, engineers and architects is mounting. So is the opportunity cost for city staff members who could be directing attention toward other city concerns.

Pick a site first. Then work together to design a library on that site with costs in mind.