By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — The old beauty shop and Laundromat building in Elk Mound may soon become a library and community center.
The Elk Mound Village Board approved at the February 20 meeting having the village purchase the old Laundromat for use as a library and community center for $10,000 with funds provided by the Elk Mound Community Center Committee.
Purchasing the building from owner Swati Lall is contingent upon receiving the money from the community center committee.
Lall has communicated through her attorney, Bill Thedinga, that she wants $10,000 for the building.
Committee members realize it is going to take several years to obtain money for a new building, so remodeling the old Laundromat for a library and meeting space is a faster way to achieve the goal, said Andy Peterson, village president and a member of the community center committee.
The former beauty shop and Laundromat is located at S101 Holly Avenue and is across U.S. Highway 12 from The Junction restaurant.
Several years ago, the Elk Mound Village Board purchased the empty lot where the new village hall is situated from the estate of Tom Eder.
The lot between the new village hall and Juniper Avenue has been designated as the site for a new community center and library.
Last February, the village board approved offering Lall $5,000 for the Laundromat building as a tax write-off.
At that time, Lall said she would be willing to turn over the property to the village if the village would pay the closing costs and would issue a letter saying she had made a $50,000 donation in property to the village.
The $5,000 that the village would have paid included $3,000 in commission to the realtor listing the property and $2,000 in miscellaneous costs.
The property was listed for $70,000, and the deal would have required the village to write a letter stating the receipt of $50,000 in a tax donation.
Village board members had initially intended that the building be cleaned up and refurbished and then sold to someone who wanted to operate the Laundromat.
After the village board had agreed to pay $5,000, three months went by without hearing anything from Lall or her attorney, Peterson said at the February 20 meeting.
Then Thedinga contacted the village, took the offer of $5,000 back to Lall, who rejected that offer, he said.
The village then offered $7,500 for the building, but Lall now wants $10,000 for it, Peterson said.
If the old Laundromat building is purchased and used as a library and community center, the lot next to the village hall would revert back to the village according to the agreement with the community center committee, Peterson noted.
Jackie Swartz, village trustee, wondered who would pay for renovating the old Laundromat building.
Peterson said he has already met with representatives of the Bremer Foundation several times.
“We were told they like to fund projects like that,” he said, adding that the application deadline is in April and that the funds would be awarded in July.
Eric Turner, the new director of the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation, who attended the meeting to introduce himself, said that other grant funding sources also might be available.
Once the village officially owns the building, the community center committee will be in a better position to raise money and to write grant applications, Peterson said.
The committee has some of the money available already to purchase the building, and other individuals have indicated that they would make donations if the village owned the building, he said.
The community has wanted a library and community center for a long time, noted Village Trustee Deborah Creaser-Kipp.
More than ten years ago when residents in Elk Mound were working on visioning sessions for the village’s Smart Growth Comprehensive Plan, village residents identified a library and community center as a priority for planning.
“As a fire hazard, it is the last bad thing (on Highway 12). It will improve the property values around it and will eliminate a fire hazard. Getting down to the basic block and tin will remove the fire hazard,” said Terry Stamm, public works director.
The roof of the building also is sagging and needs to be replaced, he noted.
Old paper and wood stacked inside the building contribute to the fire hazard, Stamm said.
The library currently located in the Elk Mound Village Hall is a satellite facility of the Menomonie Public Library and has been open since last summer.
Ted Stark, director of the Menomonie library, attended the February 20 meeting to talk about the Elk Mound satellite facility.
The Elk Mound satellite library currently has $16,500 in costs annually for the circulation clerk and courier service and is averaging a circulation of between 325 and 350 per month, Stark said.
Patrons of the Elk Mound satellite library can order materials from the Menomonie Public Library.
The turn-around time to receive materials that have been ordered is usually a couple of days, Stark said.
“If we can get into our own building, we will have a small circulating collection, newspaper subscriptions, computers, Internet and lounge areas. We would also have some programming for children (such as story time and summer reading),” Stark said.
A separate facility also would have double the hours that the Elk Mound library currently is open, up to 30 to 35 hours per week, he said.
Stark said he was hoping that the new library would generate enough revenue to pay the courier costs and for wages and benefits.
“From what Katie (Johnson) has told me, people who use (the Elk Mound library location) really appreciate it,” he said.
State statutes allow one county to invoice another county for library users who are not county residents.
A number of people from the Elk Mound area use the library in Eau Claire, and Dunn County has been paying Eau Claire about $80,000 a year for those users, Stark said.
The Menomonie Public Library Board and the Dunn County Board are hoping to reduce the amount of money paid to Eau Claire through people using the Elk Mound library.
“My board thinks it’s a good thing that we are doing this. The county administration thinks it’s a good thing. It really isn’t costing that much, and it is generating more business for us,” Stark said.
“I feel good about it. I want to continue it and see where it goes. If we can continue it, if we can move forward and put it into its own building, that would be great too. We will work with you on that,” he said.
The Elk Mound Village Board unanimously approved a motion to have the village purchase the old Laundromat with the funds provided by Elk Mound Community Center Committee and to use the building as a library and community center.
The target closing date is the end of March but could be end of April, Peterson noted.
In other business, the Elk Mound Village Board approved hiring Mark Levra as a part-time village employee at $18 per hour for 20 hours per week to begin learning the job of the director of public works.
Levra is the assistant fire chief in Elk Mound and also is an EMT with the Colfax Rescue Squad.