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Municipalities question library foundation's role in proposed NMC building purchase

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news River Falls, 54022
Hudson Star Observer
715-386-9891 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Members of the Hudson Town Board and Hudson Mayor Dean Knudson are questioning the role the Hudson Area Library Foundation is playing in the effort to relocate the Hudson Area Joint Library to the Nuclear Management Co. building.

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Last month, the town board protested the Hudson Area Joint Library Board's transfer of $1,800 to the foundation. The money was used to mail a flyer providing information about the proposed purchase of the NMC building prior to the April 1 referendum on the issue.

Dave Ostby, a member of the Hudson Town Board and the library board, told fellow library board members on April 14 that the town planned to withhold library funding equal to its share of what was given to the library foundation.

Ostby said the Hudson Town Board members agreed with him that the transfer of money to the foundation was a misappropriation of funds under the existing joint library agreement.

The public library is jointly operated by the city of Hudson, village of North Hudson and the towns of Hudson and St. Joseph. Each of the municipalities levy a tax to fund the library, which currently is located in the city-owned Hudson Municipal Building at 911 Fourth St.

Knudson, at the May 5 meeting of the Hudson City Council, indicated that he shares the Hudson Town Board's concern about the library foundation's role in the effort to acquire the NMC building.

The mayor said he had gotten word that the Hudson Area Library Foundation planned to refund the money it received from the library board for the purpose of mailing the informational flyer.

Knudson indicated that he also is concerned about a transfer of $10,000 from the library budget to the foundation. The library board approved the transfer on a 5-1 vote, with Ostby abstaining, at its April 14 meeting.

The library foundation intends to use the $10,000 to hire an architect to study the feasibility of converting the NMC building, located at 700 First St., into a public library.

Library board members Jim O'Connor, the chairman, Scot O'Malley, Sarah Smith, Dan Koch and Mike Hipsher voted to transfer the money to the foundation. Marion Shaw of the town of Hudson opposed the transfer.

In an e-mail to the Star-Observer on Monday, O'Malley said Knudson's concern over the $10,000 is puzzling.

"These funds come from the joint library's site and planning budget, which is exactly for items such as this study," O'Malley wrote. "I don't think anyone would expect the library to advocate purchase of the NMC building without first verifying that the building can fill the need. The only way to avoid these costs is to start from scratch and design a new library building, and that was not the question on the referendum ballot."

The Hudson Area Library Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization, was founded in 1988 to raise funds for library capital improvements.

Another library support group, the Friends of the Hudson Library, funds and promotes library programs.

Knudson also questioned the appropriateness of the library foundation negotiating with Xcel Energy for the purchase of the NMC building.

Under the agreement the four partner municipalities signed in forming the joint library, the library board can't purchase real estate, Knudson noted.

"Right now, there are no public officials involved (in talks with Xcel Energy)," he said. "I'm not sure that is what voters expected."

In the April 1 advisory referendum, city residents approved of purchasing the NMC building for a library 1,523 to 512.

Village of North Hudson and town of Hudson residents also voted overwhelming in favor of the purchase. Residents of the towns of St. Joseph and Troy approved of the plan, too, but by narrower margins.

The Town of Troy isn't a member of the joint library, but held a referendum on contributing to the purchase of the NMC building because some of its residents use the Hudson library.

Together, residents of the four partner municipalities voted 3,153 to 1,347 (70.1% to 29.9%) in favor of acquiring the NMC building.

The minutes of the library board's April 14 meeting say that library foundation secretary Susan Gilbert reported that the foundation planned to meet with Xcel Energy officials to find out how much money the company wants for the NMC building.

Gilbert also said that the foundation would begin preparing a contingency purchase agreement.

The agreement would make the sale of the building contingent upon the approval of the four partner municipalities and the drafting of new joint library agreement, Gilbert reported.

She said the library foundation would put down money toward the purchase of the building, and be responsible for any financial losses if the two sides couldn't reach a purchase agreement.

Gilbert said the library foundation would use its own money and funds from the Friends of the Hudson Library to pay for a fundraising study.

You can learn more about the library foundation's proposed purchase of the NMC building at www.lakefrontlibrary.org.

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Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
(715) 426-1066
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