By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — All together, Colfax received six “requests for proposals” by the November 28 deadline from architectural firms for a new library or multipurpose building to house the library, police department and administrator-clerk-treasurer’s office.
The Colfax Village Board and the Colfax Library Board reviewed the RFPs at a special joint meeting December 1.
Some of the RFPs contained more details than others, noted Lisa Ludwig, director of the Colfax Public Library.
Colfax started exploring the possibility of building a new library or a new multipurpose building to house the library, village offices and police department when the village board accepted a space needs assessment for the clerk’s office and the police department in September and also approved sending out requests for proposals.
The request for proposals asked for preliminary cost estimates for four options: a stand-alone library; a single story multi-use facility for the clerk, library and police department; a two-story multi-use facility for the clerk, library and police department; a single-story multi-use facility for the library and police department.
The architects that returned RFPs included Dimensions IV Architects out of Madison; FEH Associates with offices in Delavan, Dubuque, Iowa, and Illinois; Ayres Associates out of Eau Claire; Leo A. Daly, with offices around the United States and the closest in Minneapolis; SDS Architects out of Eau Claire; and Cedar Corporation out of Menomonie.
The estimate for building a stand-alone library or a multipurpose building is $200 per square foot.
If Colfax built a 10,000 square-foot building, the cost would be around $2 million.
Scott Gunnufson, village president, said funding sources would have to include grants so that taxpayers would not be paying for a new building.
The existing Colfax Public Library is 1,800 square feet.
Ludwig has gone on record in the past saying that the recommendation for the circulation area covered by the Colfax library would be a 10,000 square foot building.
More than half of the circulation of the Colfax Public Library — 60 percent — is generated by residents living in the surround townships.
Out of the total circulation of 28,094 — at 60 percent, nearly 17,000 of the circulation comes from people living outside the village of Colfax, compared to 11,000 for people living in Colfax.
State law requires that the county fund 70 percent of the cost of county residents to use libraries in the county, but Dunn County funds 100 percent of the cost for county residents to use the Colfax library.
Ludwig said she appreciated the introduction to the Dimensions IV RFP: “A community’s public library is the best building in town.”
Ludwig met personally with many of the architects, and they all tended to ask the same questions, she said.
One of the questions related to the existing municipal building and what would happen to it if Colfax constructed a new library, police department and administrative offices.
Ludwig said she told the architects that it would not be her decision about the municipal building and that it would be up to the Colfax Village Board.
The Dimensions IV RFP laid out a four-step process for building a new library or multipurpose building, including determining feasibility, a concept and budget report, preliminary design, final design and actual construction, Ludwig said.
The preliminary design phase would include a kickoff meeting with the library board, village board and other stakeholders; an orientation meeting; determining design principles; and options for a stand-alone library or multipurpose building, she said.
The RFP addressed two of the four options: a stand alone library or a single-story multipurpose facility for the police department, the library and the village’s administrative offices, Ludwig said.
The fee for Dimensions IV would be $26,200 for the initial phase of the project, although Ludwig noted that it was not entirely clear from the RFP what the village would be getting for $26,200.
A sketch included with the RFP placed the building on the lot Dairy State Bank has offered to donate.
The library or multipurpose building itself would be located on the “L” portion of the lot south of the bank with parking on the portion of the lot directly to the west of Dairy State Bank.
The Dairy State Bank lot has an assessed value of $43,700.
Ludwig said she believes that FEH Associates has a good understanding of libraries and the services offered by libraries.
FEH’s fee schedule for Phase I of the process would be $2,960 and would include conceptual cost estimates and probable costs for the four options; a presentation to the village board and the library board; and a presentation at a community meeting.
FEH has designed many municipal buildings and libraries, Ludwig noted.
Ayres Associates recently acquired the architectural firm of Matthew Frisbie, and Travis Schroeder, who previously worked for Cedar Corporation and worked on the Colfax Municipal Building during the energy-efficiency project, now works for Ayres Associates, Ludwig said.
The cost for Phase I for Ayres is $1,800, and includes a meeting with the village board and library board; a project schedule; goals for the project; a community meeting; and a meeting with stakeholders, Ludwig said.
Ayres also included a section on helping to determine what to do with the existing building as well as determining goals for a new library or multipurpose building, she said.
Ayres would determine costs for all four options and then would take that information to the public for a community meeting, Ludwig said.
In addition, Ayres Associates has a grant writer and funding specialist on staff, she said.
Ayres has worked on a variety of projects in this part of Wisconsin, including the Luck Public Library; the Hayward Public Library; the Grantsburg Public Library; the Nekoosa Community Center; the Pepin Public Library; the Roberts Village Hall; the Osceola Community Center; and the Altoona Public Library, Ludwig said.
Leo A. Daly
The architectural firm of Leo A. Daly quoted a cost of $12,500 for all four options, Ludwig said.
Ludwig did not elaborate on what the $12,500 included — or else the RFP did not include specific information on what was included in the fee.
SDS Architects quoted a cost of $25,000 for Phase I, which includes a kickoff meeting, facility assessment, information on library programming, cost estimates and fund-raising assessments, Ludwig said.
SDS has completed a number of school projects in this part of Wisconsin, she noted.
The other architectural firms sent multiple copies of the RFPs, enough so that if every village board member and library board member did not have a copy, they could at least share copies.
Cedar Corporation only sent two copies of the RFP, Ludwig said, one for her and one for Gunnufson.
Ludwig said she was not particularly interested in reviewing the Cedar Corporation RFP.
Following a space needs assessment for the village completed by Cedar Corporation in September, the numbers included for library square-footages for comparable communities were outdated numbers taken from old sources, Ludwig said.
When asked about using old, out-dated numbers, the representative from Cedar Corporation said she had not looked up the most recent numbers, Ludwig said.
Information about public libraries and square footages are available on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s website.
Ludwig said she would not feel comfortable with an architectural firm that did not bother to find the most recent numbers available.
“It goes to credibility,” she said.
Annie Schieber, village trustee, said she could not help wondering why there was such a large price range — from $26,000 down to $1,800 — listed for the initial phase of a library or multipurpose building project.
Ludwig said she was not exactly sure why there was such a large difference.
Kitz Cleary, Dunn County board supervisor and the county board’s representative on the library board, said it would be a good idea to ask all of the companies to make a specific list detailing exactly what would be covered by the fee so accurate comparisons would be possible.
Gunnufson said before asking the companies to provide detail, it would be a good idea to hold a community meeting to know what the public would be willing to support, either a stand-alone library or a multipurpose building.
“I agree. We should know what we’re (considering) first before asking architects for specifics,” Schieber said.
Another important aspect is to understand grant options, Gunnufson said.
“You do not buy a $300,000 house when you can only afford to pay for a $100,000 house,” he said.
The village board, library board and the community must figure out “what makes sense without raising taxes,” Gunnufson said.
“We need to know what the taxpayers want,” said Mark Halpin, village trustee and the village board’s representative on the library board.
Beverly Schauer, village trustee, suggested holding a referendum on the issue during the spring election.
“The taxpayers need to have something to say about it,” she said.
If a question about a library or a multipurpose building is on the ballot for a referendum, people will assume that it is a “done deal” and that the project is going to be built, Gunnufson said, adding that the purpose of a referendum, if one were to be held, would be to find out what the community wants in general, not for the community to approve a specific project.
A meeting would be a better way to get input about what the community wants, he said.
Lori Halpin, library board member, wondered why there had to be only one meeting with the community.
Why not hold a number of meetings and community forums? Halpin asked.
Julia Conway, library board member, said it would be important at any public meetings to include information about the liabilities of the library’s existing location in the municipal building, such as handicapped accessibility problems.
Building a multipurpose building for the library, police department and village’s administrative offices would put the village in the position of maintaining another building, in addition to the municipal building, Schieber said.
“There are many voices (in the community), and they might have many good ideas,” Halpin said.
Gunnufson suggested that the village board and the library board do additional review of the RFPs, hold an informational town hall meeting with members of the community served by the library, field questions from the public and then hold another joint meeting between the library board and village board, and then consider the possibility of a referendum question.
Gunnufson agreed that the village board and the library board could have many meetings with the public to present information and to obtain ideas.
“We need to answer who, what, where, when and why,” he said.
If the Colfax Municipal Building is put back on the tax roll through ownership by a private company, then it would make sense to require that the private company keep the building’s auditorium functional for public use for a certain amount of time, perhaps 15 or 20 years, Gunnufson said.
One estimate to rent out the space on the main floor of the building is $1,100 per month, he said.
“We need to give consideration to the long term, whichever direction we go,” Gunnufson said.