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Published January 14, 2014, 12:48 PM

New Grand Forks library options emerge

Library officials and city leaders Monday discussed the future of the Grand Forks Public Library, including possible new locations in the south, west and center of the city as well as a new governance structure and partners for the facility.

By: Charly Haley, Grand Forks Herald

Library officials and city leaders Monday discussed the future of the Grand Forks Public Library, including possible new locations in the south, west and center of the city as well as a new governance structure and partners for the facility.

The discussion happened during a City Council work session with council members and representatives from the Library Board.

Council members agreed that the library's future should be a city and Grand Forks County partnership, said Todd Feland, city administrator.

The council members also agreed that city staff should advertise for a professional to evaluate the library's needs and current facility, so that the city has more specifics on the project before making further decisions, Feland said.

Prior to Monday's meeting, Feland met with the Library Board and discussed the library's needs and options.

Possible locations for a new library include the Grand Cities Mall, a site near Choice Fitness Center and on 42nd Street as part of the Destination Corridor project, Feland said.

In October, a task force recommended that Grand Forks build a new library instead of renovating the current facility on Library Circle, off of South Washington Street.

The estimated cost of remodeling the current facility would be $8.1 million, and the estimated cost of remodeling and expanding it would be $14 million, according to a 2012 report by JLG Architects. The report adds that even a full remodel and expansion would not solve all problems at the current facility, such as accessibility or future growth.

The professional evaluation discussed at Monday's meeting would update those estimates and get a better look at the library's needs, Feland said.

Governance structure

Council member Doug Christensen said at the meeting that part of the library's needs are to make its governance more efficient.

He said that the Library Board could make recommendations, but that it should be the city and county's job to maintain the facility.

"This building should be owned by an entity to be created," including the city and county, he said. Christensen added that, considering the changing needs of libraries, that the library should be called a "community learning center."

Eventually, the city and county will engage in financial planning for the project, Feland said.

In presenting to the council members, Library Board Chairman Brian Schill said that the library board doesn't want to overburden taxpayers and is seeking additional funding through grants, partners and possibly state funds.

Potential partners include the Dakota Science Center, Grand Forks Senior Center, Grand Forks Park Board, North Dakota Museum of Art and UND, Schill said. The library board has already had several meetings with those groups, he said.

Council member Dana Sande voiced that he doesn't want a new library to be planned only to be rejected by voters as happened in 2011.

Christensen and council member Bret Weber both said the voters didn't reject a new library, but voted against the unclear proposal and poor planning.

Weber, who also serves on the Library Board, said the board has made accommodations so that the current facility can last for the next few years, but each year it becomes more expensive.

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