Library project stalled
WORTHINGTON -- After several failed motions and one failed amendment, Nobles County Commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday evening to table a decision on bonding for capital improvement projects, including a new county library.
The action came after nearly a dozen individuals offered input in what was billed as a continuation of a public hearing conducted on Nov. 13. In the weeks since that initial meeting, the county also received a handful of letters -- both for and against -- the $13 million bonding proposal.
On Thursday, public opinion was given predominantly by those opposed to construction of a new county library.
"I am strictly against this project," said Keith Stubbe, Round Lake mayor and former county commissioner candidate. While he acknowledged his support for construction of a new maintenance shed in Adrian, he said the county was going down the wrong trail by pursuing a new library building.
Armed with usage numbers from the library in the last week, Stubbe said the highest number of patrons on any given day was 343, with the lowest being 76 last Saturday. He said library numbers presented at the public hearing identified daily usage at more than 400.
"If we relocated the arts center and the historical society, I feel we have enough room for a library," Stubbe said, adding that with so many books now being downloaded online, the purpose of libraries is changing.
"I think we should let the dust settle a little bit," he said. "This change in history has just started in the last two to three years. We're basing a lot of our recommendations (on a study) that was done in 2009."
"The problem is we're acting like a bunch of kids --we're acting on our wants, not our needs," he added.
Floyd Peterson of Rushmore said he conducted a little poll at his business place and found that none of the more than a dozen people he asked were in favor of building a new library.
Howard Hoftyzer of Rushmore said he is concerned about the amount of debt the county is taking on, and Paul Schutte, also of Rushmore, said his biggest concern is with rising property taxes.
"I think we need to spend some money on the library. I think we need to spend some money on the shed at Adrian," he said. "I think what we need though, is a lot of common sense."
Schutte said the library will always be the center of the community, but asked if it would be a center of the county.
"Should everybody in the county pay for it? How many people from Leota go into the library?" he asked. "They're going to be strapped with the same tax burden as the rest of us."
Rural Reading resident Randy Lubben said that while the library is outdated, there are other, more important things the county should spend its money on.
"My biggest concern is the infrastructure and all of the bridges that need to be repaired in Nobles County," Lubben said. "I think it's a real bad deal. There's a lot of truckers that spend thousands of dollars just for the sake of getting around these (restricted) bridges. That has to be the No. 1 concern you take care of."
Two individuals spoke out in favor of a new library, including Jean Meester of Bigelow, who also submitted a letter to county commissioners, and Ellen Copperud of Worthington.
"How many more services could we provide our people if we have the facility?" Meester asked commissioners. "I think we could do more. That's where I stand."
Copperud, a retired Worthington teacher, said she's worked with many young people who need the services a library provides.
"The library is a leveling field," she said. "If you have an assignment at school and don't have a computer at home, you go to the library. If you need to look at microfiche ... you go to the library."
While Copperud said the "days of Encyclopedia Britannica are certainly over," library space is still needed for the new technology of today, like computer centers.
"I think that, although I love the library, it's not adequate to the task at hand," she added. "I'm hopeful for those people who need the library, that you give it your utmost consideration."
Following public comment, each county commissioner was invited to comment on the proposal.
Commissioners Vern Leistico and Diane Thier, who opposed tabling the decision on capital improvement plan bonds, said they had the information they needed to vote.
"I don't know what waiting is going to do," said Thier. "We've talked and talked and looked and looked. Sometimes hard decisions have to be made. I don't know what putting it off is going to do.
"I've been on this board for 12 years and we've been talking about it for 12 years," she said. "As a farmer and a taxpayer, believe me, I don't want more taxes either, but I am in favor of this."
"The library study was one of the best studies I've ever seen. To me, we need a new library," said Leistico.
Commissioners Marv Zylstra and Bob Demuth Jr., however, weren't ready to move forward just yet.
"I'm not ready to make a decision at this point," said Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr., while offering support for a new library. "I think it would be unfair to the three new commissioners to take action today and then it would be binding on them."
Zylstra said he wanted more time to look over the submitted letters and to "process some of the information" given during the public hearing.
"Everything that was said is information this board has wrestled with," Zylstra said. "We're in no hurry."
Board chairman David Benson said he was struck by Copperud's comments, and said the quality of access is something commissioners need to consider.
"I would hope that as we move forward ... we really think about the library as not only a depository for books, but a community center where people can come together and find some common ground," Benson said. "I would sincerely hope that we would think about the common good -- an intelligent, articulate, thinking population."
By tabling discussion on the capital improvement plan bonds and library project, commissioners decided the new county board will have the item on the agenda for their first meeting in January. At that time, they can decide if they want to move forward.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.