Taking another go at it

Five acres of land west of Glacial Drumlin School was purchased and another $100,000 raised through donations nearly 10 years ago, but a 2008 referendum to build a public library there failed.

Cottage Grove Village President John Williams is weighing who to name to a new library planning committee that will investigate the costs and support for a public library in the village.

His appointments would need confirmation by the village board, with action expected soon.

On Monday, Nov. 4, the board approved a proposal to form the committee, which will have five members. Trustee Melissa Ratcliff said state law only requires one of the members be the local school superintendent or designee. She recommended the other members include one village trustee, a member of the Friends of the Cottage Grove Library, and two other members, one of whom could be a nonresident.

“A local library provides digital and hands-on resources to people of all ages, and it’s a public site which ensures access to all. It’s a place for meeting, social gatherings, research, learning opportunities,” said Anne Schoenemann, president of the nonprofit friends group. “The library can offer classes, speakers for toddlers, teens, families and adults.”

A push to build a library peaked last in 2008 when a referendum failed 2,185-1,104.

“I know it was controversial in the past, but that was 10 years ago, and our community has changed since then, and so we need to hear from our new residents as well to see what they want for our community,” Ratcliff said.

One of those new residents is Cynthia Kelm-Nelson, whose family moved to Cottage Grove after the referendum.

“I think that a library is something this community is definitely missing,” she said. “I think I represent that 30-something family of four, and it’s something that I know a lot of my friends and my neighbors are looking for in this community.”

Schoenemann said a library would help move the village from a bedroom community to a thriving place for residents and visitors.

The committee will research the projected costs as well as gather resident feedback.

Costs to be investigated include a building, collections, furnishings, staffing levels and annual operating costs.

“We want to educate people so they understand what the information means and what it would mean for our community,” Schoenemann said.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) must also certify a letter of intent before any plans could proceed.

After the committee completes its work and the DPI letter is received, the village board would determine whether to move forward with the creation of a library board.

“I’m in favor of it, because I was taken back, I mean I didn’t really understand the depth of that topic until I actually started knocking on doors during the campaign, and I heard from a lot of residents, not just a few, a lot, that that was a disappointment,” Trustee Jeffrey Lemberg said about the lack of a library.

The Friends of the Cottage Grove Library owns about five acres of land west of Glacial Drumlin School.

Trustee Troy Allen, whose motion to table the matter failed on a voice vote, said the sign by the land promoting the future home of the library should be removed.

“I’ve had people ask me why there’s a sign after 12 years of a referendum,” he said. “The sign should probably come down until we decide to build a library.”

Village Attorney Lee Boushea said the nonprofit group owns the land and as long the sign complies with the sign ordinance, it could stay.

Allen insisted the sign was false advertising, as there is no guarantee the site will ever be home to a library.

Residents pay about $255,000 per year for Bookmobile and other library services, money supporters said could be used to fund the local library’s operational costs.

“This wasn’t in our priority list,” Williams said. “It is not in our five-year plan.”

He said the board would need to review budget when the numbers are proposed.

“I looked at a few budgets from around the community of Dane County,” he said. “Really high, I mean way high what taxpayers are putting in … just operating so that’s not the debt you take on for building.”

Trustee Sarah Valencia said it would be best to wait for those numbers before debating them now.

“I don’t want to have people think that if we’re forming this committee that in two years’ time we’re going to have that, because realities of our financial structure right now … I don’t want people to get excited saying, oh, in two or three years, but it may be five years. It may six or seven years … or maybe the community wants it so bad, we’ll have a referendum,” Williams said.

Schoenemann said the previous library committee worked for about nine months before they presented information to the board.

“We are ready to start the village library journey again,” she said.

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