Following several months of silence on the library project, the New Richmond City Council voted unanimously to approve a design services contract for the new library worth $60,000 with ISG at its meeting Monday, Sept. 12.
“This project phase will take an estimated six to eight weeks. ISG representatives will meet with library staff and members of the library board and there will be some additional public engagement,” City Administrator Noah Wiedenfled said. “Hopefully this process will give the public a better idea of what the new library would look like, how it would function as well as a better idea of the cost,”
To date, the process has consisted of meetings with ISG partner 360 Real Estate Solutions and several public engagement opportunities. This is the city’s first significant financial investment in the project this time around.
According to the city’s Sept. 13 press release, the schematic design phase of the project will provide “further developed floor plans, conceptual reflected ceiling plans, interior and exterior renderings, preliminary interior finish and structural framing plans, narratives for HVAC/plumbing/electrical/technology systems and cost estimates.”
Up to this point, cost estimates have been approximate. With more precise floor plans, those estimates should become more accurate.
“One of the things that we want to do once we have those cost estimates is … to tell the story of what the actual impact will be to the average taxpayer on a $200,000 or $300,000 home. It will also help to explain what the importance is of having that private partner and other uses versus just building a standalone library,” Wiedenfeld said.
Much of the summer has been spent meeting with Ehlers, the city’s financial adviser, to develop a financial strategy to pay for both the initial construction as well as long-term, life-cycle costs including maintenance, staffing, insurance and utilities.
“We realize we’re not going to be able to fundraise millions of dollars for a project. I’d say there is support from the city council for borrowing to help move the project forward,” Wiedenfeld said.
So far, housing has been the primary shared use focused on in the planning stages.
“When you look at meeting other needs in the community, we know housing is a big one. We know there’s the opportunity to help the downtown, help meet the need for housing and make the project more financially feasible,” Wiedenfeld said.
Wiedenfeld recently toured six ISG properties in the La Crosse area accompanied by Mayor Jim Zajkowski, Library Director Monica LaVold and Alderman Mike Montello.
LaVold was hoping to answer an important question on her mind as well as the minds of many residents, how to operate a library alongside an apartment building.
“My thoughts were more operational, how do we make this about the library? How do I run a library on the same site as residences?” LaVold said.
One issue for LaViold, how would open access Wi-fi work between library patrons and apartment residents.
“On the fly they offered three or four different options … What impressed me was some of the foresight that this team has put into things like sharing resources,” LaVold said. “I feel like we can do this with this team.”
Additional public engagement is being planned. Ideas include using Election Day and parent-teacher conferences and the book fair, particularly at the grade school level, to solicit feedback directly from residents.
Community members are encouraged to provide feedback through the city’s strategic planning survey online at: New Richmond Strategic Plan.
Residents can also go to the building project page on the library’s website at, newrichmondlibrary.org/buildingin the coming weeks for additional updates, information, and opportunities for involvement.
“In addition to the building project itself, although we’ve talked about a new library for many years, it’s important to continue to highlight what our library does, the value it has for our community, what is says about our community and the important role a library can play in the social fabric of New Richmond going forward,” Wiedenfeld said.
After this phase of the project is completed, the building plans would be roughly 30% complete and the renderings can be shared with the public.
Council members also approved changing the zoning at the site of the new library at 421 S. Green St. from Z5 to Z6 to give planners more flexibility.
Detect, don’t dig
Council members declined to act on a resident’s request to metal detect on city trails and in city parks and to dig up objects if detected.
The current ordinance allows detecting on city property but not digging without special permission.
Administrator Wiedenfeld made the case that digging without knowledge of what else might be buried in a particular location could unintentionally damage infrastructure.
“It would be easy to hit something whether it be an irrigation system or underground utilities. In some cases, we may think something is parkland when in fact its private property. Oftentimes, If a call does come in or if it is a complaint about someone digging in a park it's most likely going to be up to our police dept. to determine whether or not that person had permission to be digging or not. Our preference would be to keep the ordinance the way that it is,” Wiedenfeld siad.
Baker Tily partner, Kim Shult, walked council members through highlights from their audit of the city’s 2021 finances.
An important measure of a municipality’s economic health is its unassigned fund balance as a percentage of its revenue.
“In your general fund, it’s important to have an adequate amount of fund balance for unexpected
needs, Shult said.
The Government Finance Officers Association recommends 16.7 percent, enough to operate the municipality for two months without any new revenue.
Baker Tily likes to see a municipality have enough funds on hand to operate for up to five months.
New Richmond had $2,618,638 in unassigned funds or 46% on hand in 2021.
“That by any measure is a healthy number …that's right in the range that we would like to see,” Shult said.
Overall, Shult characterized the City’s finances as healthy.
“To summarize, I think by all the metrics we highlight, they all looked very strong. Your fund balance, although it's down, it's more liquid than it has been recently … Your debt metrics are just where we like to see them as well as your fund balance percentage of your revenues,” Shult said.
Absentee ballots for the November election can be requested by going to MyVote.wi.gov
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