Progress on expanding the Poynette Area Public Library looks destined to be in small steps after Monday night’s somewhat contentious village board meeting.
Trustee Doug Avery, the village board’s representative on the Poynette Area Public Library Board, wants to establish a timetable on making a decision to get things moving, while library board president Bob Garske voiced his frustration at the process, and wants board action now. After some discussion and a few heated moments as well, trustees voted to hold an open house meeting next month, inviting both the public and the village downtown redevelopment committee to participate.
In public comments to open the meeting, Garske said expanding the library next door into the “Little Blessings” building would suit the library’s space need for the next 15 years, possibly more, a sentiment echoed by Poynette Area Library Director Kris Daugherty .
“We don’t need more space than what that expansion would supply, but we need that space now,” Garske said.
Daugherty said the space in Little Blessings is flexible enough to make modifications that will suit the library.
“I firmly believe that is the space that we need,” she said.
That didn’t sit too well with at least one trustee.
“It just concerns me, because in 15 years, I don’t want to be back here again,” said trustee Diana Kaschinske.
Library officials don’t want to be in a situation where the library is paying rent, Garske said, putting village taxpayers “subject to the whims of a future developer.” He said the expansion would be mainly to provide more room for meeting space and a children’s library, though some books also could be moved over.
Garske said studies on library expansion done by MSA Professional Services provided three options: remodel the building as is, remodel the building and lengthen it so the back is flush with the library or demolish it and replace it with a new building. Costs range from around $380,000 to around $700,000. Garske said another architectural firm has confirmed the “feasibility” of the first, less-expensive option.
“We think option one is the most cost-effective and the fastest method to achieve this goal,” he said. “The Poynette Area Public Library Board is willing to contribute all of our endowment funds, plus some carryover money that we have in the budget, to this end. Fundraising and grants would be easier to secure than if the building were privately owned. We are willing to assist with fundraising efforts to remodel the desired expanded space.”
As far as a next step, trustee Paul Chapa said he welcomed an “open discussion” on the issue, and that the public should also be invited.
“Let’s all get on the same page,” he said.
Avery suggested an open house, where various designs could be displayed for people to look at and ask questions about. He said that method worked for the village’s recent parks master plan.
Trustee Dave Hutchinson questioned the need for an open house in the wake of November’s referendum, which overwhelmingly supported the village board’s consideration of expanding the library into Little Blessings.
“We already had a vote that the entire village voted on,” he said. “It was a landmark decision. I’m all for fundraising to add to the money (library officials) already have.”
Avery said he didn’t want the issue to be “bounced from meeting to meeting,” and said while he appreciated the cooperation of library officials, the downtown redevelopment committee should be part the discussion.
“I don’t think it would be fair for us to undercut 10 other individuals’ opinions,” Avery said. “I would like to see what they have to say. If they come back with a shared opinion that this is the direction we should go, then I would be comfortable doing that.”
That downtown redevelopment committee members would change their minds may be unlikely, however. Poynette President Jerry Burke said the group has provided only one recommendation to the village board so far, and that was to tear down “Little Blessings” to make room for something else.
“(They said) the village’s money was better spent not rehabbing a building that had significant financial costs to it, to get a minimum of square feet,” he said. “I wouldn’t vote to put $200,000 (of village money) into that building. I would probably vote against putting $100,000 in it.”
Garske, who has been a vocal, if not stubborn supporter of library expansion, said four studies have shown that “Little Blessings” is acceptable for the library to expand into. He said asking the downtown redevelopment committee to weigh in again on the issue is a waste of time, since they have already stated they are against the idea.
“The (referendum), when you’ve almost got a three-to-one majority that says, ‘Do something,’ changes that mission statement for them,” he said. “The library has fulfilled every single thing we have been asked to do. I think the village should simply say, ‘Here it is, go for it. Pay as much as you can, and let’s see how much we’re going to end up with. It’s time to light the fuse and do something.”
Burke said expanding the library into Little Blessings would cost money the village doesn’t have, and that it might be difficult to come up with a large amount through nothing but private donors.
“Regardless of how rosy a picture Mr. Garske seems to think it is … whenever we do decide to move forward, it’s going to require some significant private capital donated,” he said.
Hutchinson said the library has enough money for the village board to sign off on the project.
“You’re talking approximately an extra $200,000,” he said. “If you go with the $384,000 (expansion option), they have approximately $200,000 now. I personally think we can give them the go-ahead, based on they would have to come up with that.”
Village administrator Sue Deuth said if work done to the Little Blessings building included changing the footprint or tearing the building down, there could be additional village charges to improve the infrastructure, possibly as much as $150,000. Village Engineer Erik Henningsgard said as long as there are no major changes to the building footprint, additional infrastructure improvements would not be needed.
Interim no more
Trustees voted unanimously to permanently appoint Sue Deuth as Village of Poynette Administrator. She had been serving in the role since August after former administrator Daniel Guild announced his resignation last January, leaving in July.
Deuth said she has "really enjoyed" her job as administrator.
"They surprised me when I was asked, and it is really an honor to be chosen," she said. "There is so much involved with the makeup of the village, that until you actually work here, you don't see how complex it can be – you can go from working with numbers on budget, to a facility problem, to reports due to someone else, to trying to envision what services/facilities our residents are interested in and find the day flew by. Very interesting work."