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Library asks Nobles County to begin fund for new space

WORTHINGTON — The Nobles County Library Board is seeking more commitment from the county as it remains hopeful of expanding to meet the growing demand for library services.

During Wednesday morning’s commissioner work session, Library Director Clint Wolthuizen and Library Board member Kathy Craun asked the board to consider earmarking $75,000 a year for each of the next 10 years to create a fund for a new or renovated library building in the city of Worthington.

“We’re hoping that the board can consider this as you set budgets,” Wolthuizen said, adding that he and the library board want to do some advance planning and begin setting money aside for a project.

“The board is pretty anxious,” added Craun. “We have some very passionate people on the board who are willing and ready to move things forward as our needs continue to grow and change.”

The library issue has come before commissioners numerous times, starting in 1997 when an elevator was installed inside the War Memorial Building. It resurfaced in 2007, and again in 2009, when a needs assessment was completed and revealed the Nobles County Library was considerably inadequate for the population it serves. The library shares the War Memorial Building with the Nobles County Historical Society and Nobles County Art Center.

In the last decade, there have been conceptual designs for a new library — including occupying the Armory Business Center (that option was quickly ruled out) and most recently being part of a proposed collaborative W.E.L.L. facility down the hill from the Worthington Fire Department.

Craun said the last two space needs studies completed for the library are no longer current, and the library board wants to be proactive in setting aside funds as the cost for a new facility will likely increase the longer the project is delayed.

“This way we could probably get ahead of some of the increased costs,” Craun said. “It gives us kind of a cushion to get a head start — to have this money set aside in a savings account, you might say, in anticipation of changes in the library.”

Wolthuizen said the county allocated $25,000 to the library in 2013 for a potential building project. Those funds were used for a space needs assessment, as well as architectural work for the proposed W.E.L.L. facility.

“I think we stretched those dollars pretty well,” Wolthuizen said.

There has been no discussion of the W.E.L.L. since Minnesota legislative session ended, and no state bonding money was awarded for the collaborative project.

Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson said the $25,000 allocation in 2013 was placed in the county’s building fund. He told commissioners they technically can’t commit to a 10-year plan to set money aside, but said they could authorize it each year if they choose.

Craun urged commissioners to set aside the funding.

“Give us something to go on rather than us spinning our wheels or becoming discouraged,” she said.

Wolthuizen said a 10-year allocation was a length of time that felt right, but added, “I would hope that far before 10 years there would be a change.”

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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