New Richmond City Council OK Design Services for New Library | Local News
After several months of silence on the library project, the New Richmond City Council voted unanimously to approve a design services contract for the new library worth $60,000 with ISG at its meeting Monday September 12.
“This phase of the project will take approximately six to eight weeks. ISG representatives will meet with library staff and library board members and there will be additional public engagement,” said City Administrator Noah Wiedenfled. “I hope this process will give the public a better idea of what the new library would look like, how it would work, as well as a better idea of the cost,”
The process to date has consisted of meetings with ISG partner 360 Real Estate Solutions and several public engagement opportunities. This is the city’s first major financial investment in the project.
According to the city’s Sept. 13 press release, the schematic design phase of the project will provide “more developed floor plans, conceptual reflected ceiling plans, interior and exterior renderings, preliminary interior finish and framing, stories for HVAC/plumbing/electrical/technology systems and cost estimates.”
So far, cost estimates have been approximate. With more accurate floor plans, these estimates should become more accurate.
“One of the things we want to do once we have these cost estimates is … tell the story of the real impact on the average ratepayer of a $200,000 or $300,000 home. It will also help explain the importance of having this private partner and other uses versus just building a standalone library,” Wiedenfeld said.
Much of the summer was spent meeting with Ehlers, the city’s financial advisor, to develop a financial strategy to pay for both initial construction as well as long-term lifecycle costs, including the maintenance, personnel, insurance and utilities.
“We realize that we will not be able to raise millions of dollars for a project. I would say the city council is supporting borrowing to help move the project forward,” Wiedenfeld said.
So far, housing has been the main shared use that has been focused on in the planning stages.
“When you look at meeting other needs in the community, we know housing is a big issue. We know it is possible to help downtown, help meet housing needs and make the project more financially viable,” Wiedenfeld said.
Wiedenfeld recently toured six ISG properties in the La Crosse area along with Mayor Jim Zajkowski, Library Director Monica LaVold and Alderman Mike Montello.
LaVold hoped to answer an important question in his mind as well as in the minds of many residents, how to operate a library next to an apartment building.
“My reflection was more operational, what do we do for the library? How to manage a library on the same site as the residences? LaVold said.
A problem for LaViold was how open Wi-Fi access would work between library patrons and apartment dwellers.
“On the fly, they came up with three or four different options… What impressed me was the foresight this team put into things like resource sharing,” LaVold said. “I feel we can do it with this team.”
Further public engagement is planned. Ideas include using Election Day and parent-teacher conferences and the book fair, especially at the elementary school level, to solicit feedback directly from residents.
Community members are encouraged to provide feedback through the City’s Strategic Planning online survey to: New Richmond Strategic Plan.
Residents can also view the construction project page on the library’s website at, newrichmondlibrary.org/buildingin the coming weeks for additional updates, information and opportunities to participate.
“In addition to the construction project itself, although we have been talking about a new library for many years, it is important to continue to highlight what our library does, the value it has for our community, what is being said about our community and the important role a library can play in the social fabric of New Richmond in the future,” said Wiedenfeld.
Once this phase of the project is complete, construction plans would be approximately 30% complete and renderings could be shared with the public.
Board members also approved the rezoning of the new library site at 421 S. Green St. from Z5 to Z6 to give planners more flexibility.
Council members refused to comply with a resident’s request to detect metals on city pathways and in city parks and to dig up objects if detected.
The current ordinance allows scouting on city property but not digging without special permission.
Administrator Wiedenfeld argued that digging without knowing what else might be buried in a particular location could unintentionally damage infrastructure.
“It would be easy to touch something, whether it was an irrigation system or underground utilities. In some cases, we may think something is a park when it is actually private property. Often, if a call comes in or it’s a complaint about someone digging in a park, it will likely depend on our police department. to determine whether or not that person had permission to dig or not. Our preference would be to keep the order as it is,” Wiedenfeld said.
Baker Tily partner Kim Shult presented council members with highlights from their audit of the city’s finances in 2021.
An important measure of a municipality’s economic health is its unrestricted fund balance as a percentage of its revenue.
“In your general fund, it’s important to have a sufficient fund balance for contingencies.
needs, says Shult.
The Government Finance Officers Association recommends 16.7%, enough to run the municipality for two months without any new revenue.
Baker Tily likes to see a municipality have enough funds to operate for up to five months.
New Richmond had $2,618,638 in unrestricted funds or 46% on hand in 2021.
“It’s, by all accounts, a healthy number…it’s in the range that we’d like to see,” Shult said.
Overall, Shult called the city’s finances sound.
“To sum up, I think from all the metrics we’re highlighting, they all looked very strong. Your fund balance, even though it’s down, is more liquid than it’s been recently. … Your debt metrics are exactly where we like to see them as well as the percentage of your fund balance to your income,” Shult said.
Mail-in ballots for the November elections can be requested by going to MyVote.wi.gov