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City Council sticks with its referendum question

The Hudson City Council agreed Monday night not to change the wording of an advisory referendum question that it initially approved in a special meeting on Feb. 14.

Council members did appear receptive to amending an explanatory statement that would include the total cost of operating the Hudson Area Joint Library if it is moved into the Nuclear Management Co. building. The statement will be posted at polling places during the April 1 election.

The council revisited the issue after hearing complaints about not including the total cost of operating a new library in the referendum question.

The question approved by the council reads: "Should the City of Hudson, Village of North Hudson, and the Towns of Hudson and St. Joseph use public funds to jointly pay for acquiring, developing and operating a new joint library building to be located at 700 First Street, Hudson, WI, at an approximate annual average tax of $24 per $100,000 of assessed valuation (estimate is based on half the building costs being paid for by philanthropic and private donations)?"

Two individuals unhappy with the wording of the question addressed the City Council Monday night.

Marion Shaw, a member of the Joint Library Board and a resident of the town of Hudson, said the wording of the question might lead the owner of a $300,000 house to believe he would pay only an additional $16 annually if the NMC building is converted into a library.

On average, residents of the municipalities that support the library already pay about $18.50 per $100,000 of valuation for library services.

When the additional cost of buying, renovating and operating the NMC building is added to that amount, the owner of a $300,000 house would pay roughly $127.50 annually for library services.

Library officials have warned area residents that all of the figures are rough estimates at this time.

"If you have an invalid question, you are going to get an invalid response," said Shaw. He said it was too late to try to correct the question.

City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick agreed that the ballot question couldn't be changed. But she said the city could amend the explanatory statement to include the total estimate cost of owning and operating a new library.

City resident Chris Kilber suggested that the ballot question was illegal, and asked Mayor Jack Breault what recourse he had if that was the case.

Breault said he would have to get a lawyer and take legal action.

Kilber responded he could do that.

Munkittrick noted that the City Council will have the final say on whether or not to purchase the NMC building, and is simply looking for public input through the advisory referendum.

Breault said the referendum questions approved by the other municipalities involved don't say anything about the cost of purchasing the NMC building and operating it as a library.

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.

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