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Colfax approves a new set of referendum questions for April 7 election

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  — The Colfax Village Board has approved a revised set of advisory referendum questions for the April 7 ballot pertaining to building a new library or a new multi-purpose building to house the library, clerk’s office and the police department.

Lynn Niggemann, administrator-clerk-treasurer, reported at a special joint meeting of the Colfax Village Board and the Colfax Public Library Board on January 19 that the Dunn County clerk, Julie Wathke, had contacted Niggemann about the advisory referendum questions the village board had approved January 12.

In order to be included on the ballot for the April 7 election, the advisory referendum questions must be submitted to Dunn County by January 27.

The paragraph that had been included above the referendum questions will not be on the ballot, Niggemann said.

Referendum questions can never contain any information that might sway the way a resident votes, she explained.

The paragraph that was approved by the village board January 12 but which will not appear on the April 7 ballot reads: “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, fundraising 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 the project will be approved. Which one of the four options do you support?”

Without the paragraph, voters will be able to vote “yes” or “no” on more than one question, Niggemann pointed out.

The village board would not have to change the resolution that was already approved and could leave the questions as they are, she said.

The questions approved by the Colfax Village Board January 12 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 for expansion?

4. Do you support not moving any library, administration, or police functions from the municipal building?

Even with only the four questions on the advisory referendum ballot, the village board and library board will obtain enough information from village residents to find out if they support a library or a multifunctional building, Niggemann said.

Several library board members wondered about removing the word “basement” from the third question.

Scott Gunnufson, village president, pointed out that “expansion” could mean that the clerk’s office moves to the basement and the library expands to fill the entire first floor.

After several minutes of discussion, the Colfax Village Board and the Colfax Public Library Board revised the questions to read as follows:

1. Do you support the construction of a new stand-alone library?

2. Do you support the construction of a new multi-functional building (library, administration, and police department)?

3. Do you support renovating the municipal building for expansion?

4. Do you support keeping the current library, administration, and police functions in the municipal building?

Mark Halpin, village trustee and the village board’s representative on the Colfax Public Library Board, said that some people may not even realize the municipal building basement is currently non-functional.

The advisory referendum questions will only measure the opinions of village residents about a new library or new multi-purpose building and will not extend to the library’s service population living outside of the village.

It will be important to present the information about the referendum questions and the architect’s ideas  in the Colfax Messenger and at town hall meetings, Niggemann said.

The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved the revised advisory referendum questions.

Village Trustee Susan Olson was absent from the meeting.