Council supports library expansion, but only if other partners pitch in
The council gave a tentative consensus – but did not vote on the matter – to support $35 million in funding towards the project. “That was not a universal view on the city council but we did have enough support to move forward,” Council Member Michael Wojcik said in a video posted to his personal blog.
Library supporters, many of whom packed the council board room on Monday, have shown tremendous enthusiasm for the plan, the cost of which would exceed the current structure’s value. Still, members of the council indicated they would need more information before signing off.
“Is this the right location and are we truly building a structure that supports programming and growth for the future? I am certainly not opposed to the library or a library expansion," City Council President Randy Staver said in an email to the Med City Beat. "But this is a decision that will resonate in our city for decades and as a steward of city assets I need to be comfortable that I am making the best decision possible."
The city’s share could come from multiple sources, including a property tax increase that would generate $2.6 million per year for 20 years or through sales tax. Under the library's plan, the remainder would come from Olmsted County ($6.3 million), DMC ($10.6 million) and private funding ($3.25 million).
State Senator Dave Senjem told the Post Bulletin last month that using state funding through DMC for the library expansion project may be a tough sell, and that such projects are rarely funded by the state.
The council recommended other bodies, like the DMC Corporation Board and Olmsted County Board of Commissioners, take a look at the library's plan before moving forward.
Council Member Nick Campion, who has been critical of a proposal putting public funds toward a new sports arena, said he believes the library would be a wise investment for the city's future.
"Ultimately, building a Destination Medical Center requires attracting the sort of talented workforce that is going to expect phenomenal services like a world-class library," Campion said in an email to the Med City Beat.
About Claire Walling: Claire is a contributing editor for the Med City Beat. She moved to Rochester two years ago from the Twin Cities after graduating from Hamline University. When she’s not working as a business writer she enjoys running the great trails around the region, designing and creating things, and drinking coffee. Fun fact: she was on a relay team that ran across Iowa in 54 hours. Twitter.
(Cover graphic: Rendering / Rochester Public Library)