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Voters to decide about new library

It will be up to the voters Tuesday to decide if the Hudson area will have a new home for its library.

First question

In referendum questions in the city of Hudson, village of North Hudson and the towns of Hudson and St. Joseph, voters will be asked for permission to issue bonds to pay for acquiring, renovating and equipping a new library, to be located in the former Nuclear Management Co. building at the corner of First and Vine streets in Hudson.

The project is estimated to cost $10.5 million, which includes the purchase of the building as well as refitting and furnishing it. The Hudson Area Library Foundation has said it believes it can raise $5.5 million (55 percent) of the cost from private sources. The Phipps Foundation has already pledged $500,000 to the project (see page 1A).

The project will end if the referendum questions fail in any of the municipalities. If voters say yes, however, the communities are still not committed to their share of the project's cost until the Library Foundation has received contributions or pledges of at least $4 million of the $5.5 million goal by September of next year.

The city of Hudson and town of Hudson are each asking to borrow $1.5 million to cover their shares of the project costs. The town of St. Joseph is asking its voters if it should borrow $740,000, and the village of North Hudson, $675,676.

Second question

The second question on each municipality's ballot will be whether it should exceed the state tax levy limit on an ongoing basis in order to pay the operational costs of the new facility.

It would take $1,150,000 a year in tax dollars to operate the new library, compared to the $609,663 used to operate the existing library in 2008.

Tax increase

The city of Hudson is asking for $244,000 more annually in property taxes to cover its share (43.3 percent) of the debt and operational costs of the new library.

Town of Hudson residents will be asked if they support a $148,173 increase in their tax levy. The proposed annual levy increases in the town of Joseph and village of North Hudson are $62,825 and $85,379, respectively.

If approved, the measure would boost property taxes by $23.23 per $100,000 of assessed value in the city, $28.74 in the town of Hudson, $25.31 in the town of St. Joseph and $38.06 in the village of North Hudson.

Other information

If the project succeeds, the new library would have three and a half times the floor space of the existing library and would include several community meeting spaces. And it would be located in a well-lit, architecturally unique building adjacent to The Phipps Center and overlooking Lakefront Park and the St. Croix River.

In an advisory referendum last April, 70 percent of voters in the partner municipalities said they wanted to pursue the move. The approval margins were 1,523 to 512 in the city of Hudson, 751 to 353 in the town of Hudson, 482 to 170 in the village of North Hudson and 397 to 312 in the town of St. Joseph.

By state standards, Hudson's library is undersized for the communities it serves. According to Library Board Chairman Jim O'Connor, the state average is 0.86 square feet of library space per person served, and Hudson's library has 0.26 square feet of floor space per person served.

Proponents of the project say purchasing and refitting the building is a far less expensive option than purchasing land and building a new facility, something they estimate would cost in excess of $13.5 million.

Bye Barsness, who with other members of the foundation has been promoting and explaining the project, said the NMC site represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is more affordable than building and meets both the immediate and long-term needs of the community for a bigger and better library.

For more information about the project, its cost and benefits, and to read the referendum questions in each municipality, visit www.lakefrontlibrary.org.

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