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Dairy State Bank offers empty lot for new library

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  Dairy State Bank has offered to give the lot directly west of the bank in Colfax as the site for a new public library.

Lisa Ludwig, director of the Colfax Public Library, spoke to the Colfax Village Board about the bank’s offer during the public appearances portion of the village board’s June 23 meeting.

The comprehensive Smart Growth plan for Colfax has references to building a new library in a number of places, Ludwig said, holding up a copy of the Smart Growth plan with multiple Post-it notes indicating the places where a new library is mentioned.

“We have never received a gift like this before, and I have been here for 14 years,” Ludwig said.

Building a new library also has been in the library’s long-range plan for many years.

The library board reviews the long-range plan every three years, and the question always is, “where can the library go for more space?” Ludwig said.

“We are very excited about the bank property,” she said.

Space in the existing library facility on Main Street “is the number one issue,” Ludwig said.

The library currently has 1,800 square feet available, making it a challenge to hold programs for both children and adults, Ludwig said.

“When we have the Summer Reading program, we hold it outside (in Tower Park). Forty plus kids will not fit in the library,” she said.

During a conversation the day after the village board meeting, Ludwig said the recommendation for a village the size of Colfax is to have a library of 10,000 square feet.

Accessibility

The library also has handicapped accessibility issues, Ludwig told the village board.

While it is true that the Colfax Municipal Building has a ramp on the south side, the elderly and people with walkers or in wheelchairs do not like to use it because the ramp is long and because the door is difficult to open, she said.

At one time, Ludwig had looked into a library grant for the large “button” door openers for handicapped accessibility, but the Colfax library is not eligible for a grant because the bathrooms in the municipal building are not handicapped accessible, Ludwig said.

Finding room for computers that the public can use also has been a challenge for the library.

Only a handful of people can attend any kind of computer class at the Colfax Public Library because there is not room for more, Ludwig said.

State statute requires the Colfax Village Board to formally accept the gift from Dairy State Bank in order for the library to be able to move forward with planning a new building, she said.

Dairy State Bank could give a little more land directly south of the bank to make an L shaped lot if it were needed, Ludwig said.

Access to the new library would be from Bremer Avenue. The location would be good because of the two banks in the area, the grocery store and the strip mall, Ludwig said.

Parking is an issue at the Main Street location because mothers worry about their small children running out in the street. The Dairy State Bank lot would have off-street parking, she said.

Plans for a new library would include a community center, Ludwig said.

Industrial park

Scott Gunnufson, village president, said he would be concerned about putting the public library and a community center in the industrial park.

Moving the library to the south side of town would take consumer traffic from Main Street and would have a negative impact on downtown businesses, he said.

“We would be putting a community function in the industrial park,” Gunnufson said.

Gunnufson also wondered if the lot would be big enough for a library and a community center and the parking spaces necessary for a building of that size.

A different location for a library, village offices and a community center downtown “would be good, but there is nothing available,” Gunnufson said.

Construction costs

Several village board members wondered who would pay the construction cost for a new library.

The village ultimately would be responsible for the construction cost, but the Colfax Public Library also is funded by Dunn County, Ludwig said, adding that library would pursue grant opportunities as well.

The Otto Bremer Foundation frequently awards grants for libraries, playgrounds, community centers and fire and ambulance services.

State statute requires that the county reimburse a public library for those users who come to the library from outside the municipality, such as the townships surrounding Colfax.

State law requires the county to reimburse at 70 percent, but Dunn County has been reimbursing Colfax at 100 percent for the past five years, Ludwig said.

The county’s reimbursement rate to the library is higher than the Village of Colfax’s reimbursement to the library, she said.

Gunnufson suggested that Dairy State Bank’s offer of the lot be put on the next agenda for the village board or be assigned to a committee.

Fire station

In 2010, Dairy State Bank offered to sell the same lot to the Colfax Fire Board for $1 as the site for a new fire station.

Fire board members discussed the possibility of building the new fire station next to Dairy State Bank but concluded the site did not have enough room for a fire station.  Bringing the fire trucks out on state Highway 40 from Bremer Avenue also would be a problem, fire board members said.

The Colfax Fire Board purchased five acres on county Highway M from Jim and Mary Schindler to use as the site for the new fire station.

The Dairy State Bank lot is about a half an acre.