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New library master plan tabled by council

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New Richmond city council

The New Richmond city council voted Monday night to put an updated master plan for a new library on hold for at least a couple of more weeks to give aldermen time to digest the language in the revised document.

Because the delivery of the new document was delayed, aldermen hadn't seen it until about 24 hours prior to Monday night's meeting.

The revised master plan emerged from a recent meeting Mayor Fred Horne and aldermen Craig Kittel and Jim Zajkowski had with some of the members of the school board, including board president Rick Hinz.

"It was a really good discussion," Zajkowski said Monday night about the meeting the city officials had a couple of weeks ago with members of the school board. "We were never getting anywhere ... so we had this face-to-face discussion where we got down to brass tacks ... the summary points that are included [in the document] spell it out," Zajkowski added.

Kittel echoed Zajkowski's sentiments about the meeting and its outcome.

"They were very receptive to what we were trying to get at," Kittel said. "I wanted to make sure this site [old school] was not a possibility before we looked at other sites. Did we think this was the best location. Yes, that was the consensus. I think that's what we got here ... a place for a new library."

Zajkowski explained further for the council: "They had the impression that we were going to put housing on the site—and commercial buildings; that we were going to put a street right through the middle of the project. They basically want a library that can have internal commercial where any funds received go back into the library. They want a library and green space for the community. We talked about the green space and that it would be for community events. It could have a skating rink in the winter, we could have farmers markets there and all these other options. They were all for keeping [the library] in the downtown area. Meeting with them, I think was a great ... face-to-face and that we actually got this done. There was a lot of misunderstanding ... and we clarified what we were asking."

The biggest issue for Mayor Horne was parking, but there were other issues that needed smoothing out as well.

"There were some questions and concerns. This is a big decision for the entire community, so we [wanted to] take the time to make it right," Horne said.

"But as for parking ... this site allows us to have additional parking at the library. The number one complaint we heard when we visited other libraries in the area was lack of parking. If we want people to get to and use this library, that's what we would need. This site would have that."

But it was Scottie Ard who indicated she wasn't sold on this newest version of the master plan.

"As it's presented, in this document you are hamstringing what the concepts of what a modern, future library to serve this community for the next 50 years can be and can develop into," Ard said. "There are limits and strong language within this and if you're creating something to conceptually serve the public and patrons ... it's a concept that hasn't come to fruition. The language is terrible within this document ... they are stating exactly what should be within the library and what parameters the library should be working with; who would the library be allowed to serve? Or to entertain requests from? Explain to me why a graduation party [wouldn't be allowed]. Libraries are used for many different events. Our library does an extraordinary job ... in serving the underserved. I think [the school board] still missed the greater picture of what a library has become in this 21st century. It is not just books and tables."

"They understand that," Zajkowski answered.

"It doesn't appear by this language," Ard said.

Following the discussion, it was alderman Mike Montello who offered the motion to table the approval of the revised master plan until the council has a chance to gather more information.

According to Horne, the city will take another kick at the can at its upcoming work session scheduled for Monday, Feb. 27.

The school board is scheduled to meet next Monday, Feb. 20, where the issue could be on the agenda.

"There is bound to be more back and forth between the city and school, given the timing of things here," Horne said.

However, he was also optimistic that something will be worked out to allow the city to take over the property and begin planning for a new library at the site.

"I think it's a fair agreement for both of us," Horne said. "But I knew [the council] wanted more time ... but the favored location is the old school."

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