Resolution pledging financial support for remodel, expansion project is eyed

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

Whitewater’s decision-making municipal body is mulling a resolution that could formalize the city’s commitment for the planned expansion and remodel of the Irvin L. Young Memorial Library.

Amid a wide-ranging discussion at a Common Council meeting Nov. 16, a number of concerns were raised, however — most notably, cost projections at a time when inflationary pressures continue to shoot costs to higher price points.

This summer, members of the Library Board went before the council with a revised set of plans for the library project, which was first discussed about two decades ago.

The new plan on the table calls for expanding the venue by 6,928 square feet, from the current layout of 14,146 square feet to 18,606 square feet. Areas within the existing venue also would be remodeled to reflect some of the more contemporary uses for public libraries.

The tentative price tag for the work has been set at $5.05 million. The plan includes a $3 million commitment from the city itself and the balance of $2.05 million being funded through a fundraising appeal and other sources.

Library Director Stacey Lunsford said the resolution is a pivotal next step in bringing donors into the fold.

“When we were talking to potential donors, one of the first questions they always asked was, ‘Is the city in support of this?’” Lunsford said. “They certainly didn’t want to place any money without that assurance.”

Lunsford added the city’s formal commitment would make the next steps of launching a fundraising appeal a worthwhile endeavor.

“We wanted to make sure, before we started on a capital campaign, which will be intense and time consuming, that we would be able to assure people that if they pledged money, this project would indeed come to fruition,” Lunsford said.

In general, a number of council members have been supportive of the library’s plans.

Speaking to the size and scope of the work, council member Carol McCormick said, “It makes sense for our size of city.”

But the unknowns of the cost of materials and labor — particularly in 2024, when the work could take place — gave the council pause in making a motion at the Nov. 16 meeting.

“I am cautious in sticking to a hard and fast number, just because we certainly don’t know what the next couple of years will look like … with inflation,” council member Lisa Dawsey-Smith said. “I think it’s really important we show support for the project, but maybe dial specifically into a number.”

Council President Lynn Binnie pointed out the cost estimates are still projections.

“It’s obviously not been bid yet,” Binnie said. “This is what architects told us it will cost. I think we need to get some further information from them.”

Dawsey-Smith asked to have the resolution revisited at a future council meeting.

Binnie not seeking re-election this spring

During a portion of the council agenda for announcements, Binnie indicated he would not seek re-election when his term ends in April. He is one of three council members with expiring terms.

“It has been a great privilege for me to represent the City of Whitewater and, specifically, aldermanic District 4, and to have worked collegially with all of you, as well as Cameron and others on staff,” Binnie said in his announcement.

He added, “It is with very mixed feelings that I announce that I have decided to conclude my service at the end of the current term and, consequently, do not plan to run for re-election.”

 

 

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