Lake Elmo tries to pin down new library location

By HANNAH JOHNSON
hjohnson@acnpapers.com

The Lake Elmo City Council has yet to decide on a permanent location for the city’s new library.

But it’s trying to make progress. The council spent a portion of its meeting Wednesday night listening to comments from the public regarding a potential library location.

The Library Board recently requested the council consider buying property at 3537 Lake Elmo Avenue North, also known as the "clock building," for the Lake Elmo Public Library. The Library Board reported that it is financially feasible to buy the building based on the estimated range of costs to purchase and renovate the structure. It also appears to the board that the costs of purchasing the building would be comparable, if not less, than renting space for the city library over a 10- to 20-year span. In addition, the Library Board has decided not to lease the former Washington County Rosalie E. Wahl Library site at this time.

The council held a public forum Wednesday to hear comments from residents regarding the possible purchase of the clock building for the new library. Eight people spoke – four in favor of purchasing the building and four in opposition, said City Administrator Dean Zuleger.

Prior to the meeting the council was informed of questions raised by community members whether purchasing property is the right decision since owning property carries financial risk, especially with uncertainties in real estate prices. Other comments have been made that the new Lake Elmo Public Library should become established and prove successful in a leased space before the council considers a more permanent location, according to background information provided by Zuleger in city council materials.

Since hearing comments for and against the purchase, the council instructed city staff to research four distinct facility options for the library.

"We need to see what is the best use of tax dollars in this situation," Zuleger said.

The four options include:

* Issuing bonds and buying the building. If the city bonded and purchased the building it would make improvements to the building immediately.

* Using existing funds to purchase the building. If the city purchased a building right away it would wait to make improvements to the building.

* Exploring a renter/lease agreement. Several leasing options will be provided to the council.

* Leasing a building with the intent of purchasing the building. The city would use rental payments to go toward a purchase price to offset the total cost of buying a building.

City staff plans to present the four options at the next city council meeting. In addition, the city is still pursuing the possibility of becoming an associate member of the Washington County library system, Zuleger said.

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