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Colfax Village Board approves advisory library referendum questions for April election

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  — The Colfax Village Board has approved a set of four questions for an advisory referendum on the April ballot pertaining to the Colfax Public Library.

The advisory referendum questions would be a way to gauge public support for a library project, said Scott Gunnufson, village president, at the Colfax Village Board’s January 12 meeting.

The questions that will appear on the ballot for Colfax residents April 7, for which voters will be asked  to answer yes or no for one of the four options, are 1. Do you support a stand-alone library? 2. Do you support a multi-functional building (library, administration, and police department)? 3. Do you support renovating the municipal building’s basement to accommodate expansion? 4. Do you support NOT moving ANY library, administration or police functions from the municipal building?

The resolution must be approved by the village board and sent to the Dunn County clerk by January 27 in order to appear on the ballot in April, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.

The first part of the referendum question will read: “The village officials want to measure village resident support for the following options below. The public library and village administration are operating in minimal space that is not conducive to efficient operations. The total cost for any of the following options shall be achieved through grants, donations, fund-raising efforts and other sponsorship programs to result in no tax increases to village residents. This is not a binding referendum, and the outcome of the votes does not guarantee that a project will be approved. Which one of the four options below do you support?”

During a joint meeting of the Colfax Village Board and the Colfax Public Library Board on January 14 to interview architectural firms for a library project, it was noted that the advisory referendum question would tell village residents that any library project would be paid for through grants, donations, fund raising and sponsorship programs to result in no tax increases to village residents.

One of the architects pointed out that the Colfax Public Library would not get any grant money if the municipalities involved did not commit at least some funding for the project.

Grants usually require that the applicants put up some of the money as a condition of getting the grant, the architect said.

Based on the projected space needs of 10,000 square feet for a new library and construction costs estimated at $200 per square foot, a new library for Colfax could cost somewhere around $2 million.

Exploring the possibility of building a new library began after Dairy State Bank offered to donate the L-shaped lot west and south of the bank.

Part of the village board’s initial reasoning for consulting with architects was to determine whether the L-shaped lot would be the best location for a new library.

Population

The population of Colfax is a little over 1,100, and the service population for the Colfax Public Library is about 3,000.

During a joint meeting of the Colfax Village Board and the Colfax Library Board in August, it was reported that in 2013, the Colfax library had a total circulation of 28,094 and that people living in the townships surrounding Colfax account for 60 percent of the library’s circulation.

The Colfax Public Library’s budget for 2015 is $125,220. Dunn County provides funding of $74,100 for those people living outside of Colfax who use the library, with the remaining $51,120 coming from the village.

Colfax Village Board members did not discuss at the January 12 meeting how the opinions of people living outside of Colfax who use the Colfax Public Library would be measured.

When the Colfax Messenger asked later how the people living outside of Colfax would be able to express their opinions, Gunnufson said he was considering asking the town boards to put the advisory referendum questions on their agendas so the questions could be approved by the January 27 deadline for the April ballot.

January monthly meetings were held in the Town of Otter Creek on January 13, in the Town of Grant on January 12, in the Town of Colfax on January 14 and in the Town of Tainter on January 8.

The town boards typically meet once a month, and without holding a special town board meeting, will not meet again until February and would not have an opportunity to approve the advisory referendum question by the January 27 deadline.

The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved the advisory referendum questions.

Village Trustees who voted in favor of the motion were Beverly Schauer, Annie Schieber, Mark Halpin, Carey Davis, Jeremy Klukas and Village President Scott Gunnufson.

Village Trustee Susan Olson was absent from the meeting.