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Bonds sought for library project

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- With several irons in the fire regarding siting, building design and fundraising, Nobles County commissioners met with bond counsel Tuesday morning to discuss financing up to $10 or $11 million for the construction of a new county library.

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Rusty Fifield of Northland Securities presented a few different bonding options, but the one to be pursued by the county is Capital Improvement Plan bonds. These bonds can be secured for the specific purpose of building construction, but require public hearings both for the project plans and the issuance of bonds.

Fifield said the board could host the public hearing now before knowing the total cost of both land and construction, or it could wait until more detailed cost estimates are available. The advantage to conducting the hearing up front is to have "clear authority to finance the project" before more work is done on design.

"There is nothing in statute that you have to issue the bonds in a specific amount of time," Fifield said. "If you were clear at the public hearing that you would follow down this path to build a library and did it with reasonableness, I don't think there would be an issue."

The county could borrow up to $43 million in capital improvement bonds, Fifield said, -- "which we are not going to do," Board Chair David Benson said in response.

"You have ample authority to build the library you envision," Fifield stressed.

Interim Nobles County Administrator Vijay Sethi said it will take a three-year period for completion of a library building. He remains in talks with both city leaders and the owner of Lampert Lumber in Worthington.

The lumber yard, located at the intersection of 10th Street and 10th Avenue, has been identified as a potential site for the new library building. Sethi said the lumber yard has received input on possible new locations on city-owned property in the community.

Whatever site is ultimately decided upon for the library, it will need to be a large enough space to house an approximately 30,000-square-foot building. This is slightly smaller than the 32,000- to 34,000-square-foot facility identified in a needs assessment study completed in 2009.

Mark Ranum, Plum Creek Library System director, said at 30,000 square feet of space, with a cost estimate of $240 to $260 per square foot of construction, the total building cost would be approximately $7.5 million. That does not include the cost of land or site development.

"There's also private fundraising and other funding sources that we'd want to tap into," Ranum told commissioners.

Fifield said if commissioners were comfortable in setting a not-to-exceed dollar amount, Northland Securities could move forward with gathering bond information.

"From my personal opinion, I feel we have enough background," Benson said. "We have the study, we have the capital improvement plan, I think we have the pieces in line."

"I just can't wait 'til this is done," added Commissioner Diane Thier. "This has been my love for 12 years, the library, and I hope the whole board keeps this going."

Fifield was directed to have a draft plan ready for commissioners at their Oct. 23 board meeting. At that time, plans are to schedule public hearings for late November on the use and issuance of capital improvement bonds.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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