Council explores selling library/police buildingThe Hudson City Council voted Tuesday night, Sept. 4, to get an appraisal of the value of the city building that houses the Hudson Area Joint Library and Hudson Police Department. The vote followed a closed session near the end of the meeting in which the council talked about a strategy for selling the building.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
The Hudson City Council voted Tuesday night, Sept. 4, to get an appraisal of the value of the city building that houses the Hudson Area Joint Library and Hudson Police Department.
The vote followed a closed session near the end of the meeting in which the council talked about a strategy for selling the building.
The vote to go behind closed doors to discuss a marketing strategy and price for the building came after the council debated whether to consider a sale.
Mayor Alan Burchill said he was advised by City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick that the first portion of the discussion could take place in open session.
Burchill said Barbara Peterson, president of the library board, had told him the library doesn’t have a desire to buy the building at this time.
The city purchased the former Nuclear Management Co. headquarters, located at First and Vine streets, in late 2009 for $2.5 million. The purchase included the smaller office building on Vine Street at Second Street that was sold in June 2010 to Sarah Atkins and John Hoggatt of Archovations Inc. for $260,000.
Hoggatt was elected alderperson for District 5 the following spring.
The purchase of the former corporate headquarters also allowed the city to sell the Hudson Municipal Building on Fourth Street, where the library previously was located. That sale brought in $475,000 for the city.
District 2 Alderperson Mary Yacoub supported pursuing a sale of the library/police department building.
“I think we have to have a plan. In this market, it may take some time to sell,” she said.
Yacoub said the money from the sale could be used to help pay for a new public safety building.
The new building, presumably, would house the fire and police departments, and St. Croix EMS & Rescue.
Yacoub said selling the building wouldn’t mean the library has to leave.
“I don’t see what would be wrong with exploring selling it,” she said.
Hoggatt said he wasn’t interested in selling the library/police building.
“To me, now doesn’t seem the right time to turn that egg,” he said, indicating that real estate prices are depressed.
When a question was raised about how much the building might sell for, District 1 Alderperson Randy Morrissette II said that was a topic for a closed session. The council then voted unanimously to go into closed session.
Council President Rich Vanselow was absent.
Roy Sjoberg, a member of the library board’s finance committee, said the library would be interested in buying the building if the library remains a joint library, and can solve its revenue problems.
If the library reverts to a municipal library, it wouldn't make sense for the library to purchase the building, Sjoberg said. He said that would be like requiring the police department to purchase its office space.
The library has two years and four months left on a five-year lease of the building, with the option to renew the lease for another five years.
The library also has the option to purchase the building, but must act on it before Oct. 31, 2014. The lease agreement says the city reserves the right to terminate or renegotiate the terms of the purchase option if the library hasn't acted on it by the 2014 deadline.
An addendum to the lease and option to purchase agreement signed Aug. 9, 2010, following the sale of the Second Street office building, set the price for the library/police building at $2,240,000 million, with $112,000 added to the price on Jan. 1 of each year beginning in 2011.
That would make the current price of the building $2,464,000. The agreement also allows the city and library to renegotiate the price.
Earlier in the meeting, the council voted not to commit to increasing city funding for the library to the level that would allow property owners to be exempt from the county’s library tax.
The city has a Sept. 24 deadline for requesting exemption from the tax. It would have to increase its funding to the library to $547,917 to be exempt from the county tax, according to a report from Finance Officer Neil Soltis. That would be an increase of $269,007 from the city’s 2012 library funding.
By not seeking exemption from the county levy, the council made city property owners subject to a total of about $277,000 in county library taxes.
Council members said they had no other choice since the city is limited by state law to a tax levy increase of about $43,000 for 2013.
Alderpersons Mary Yacoub and Lori Bernard blamed the county for situation.
Bernard said the county created much of the problem when it increased to 100 percent the reimbursement libraries gets for serving residents from municipalities that don’t have libraries.
In a call to the Star-Observer late last week, County Board Chairman Daryl Standafer disputed that analysis. He said residents pay the county tax only if their municipal governments fail to fund their libraries at the rate that the other municipalities in the county do.
“The county didn’t do that. The city didn’t keep pace with where they needed to be,” Stanafer said.
He said the reimburse rate was increased to 100 percent because it wasn’t fair for municipalities with libraries to subsidize library service for municipalities that don’t have libraries.
Library board members Rich O’Connor and Roy Sjoberg presented two separate proposals for increasing city support to the library to the county level.
O’Connor’s plan was rejected because council members didn’t think it would pass a legal review.
Council members expressed skepticism about Sjoberg’s proposal, too, but indicated they would give it further consideration.