by Dennis Dalman
A motion to possibly allocate half-cent sales-tax money for a Sartell library – but only after an assessment is completed – was approved 4-1 by the Sartell City Council at its Nov. 9 meeting.
Council member David Peterson voted against it because he thinks the council should allocate money as soon as possible for a library.
The assessment in question is the long-range one now under study by the St. Cloud-based Great River Regional Library system, which has been communicating with Sartell to explore options for a library facility in the city.
During a discussion of the proposed Sartell Community Center, Peterson began the money-allocation discussion by suggesting the council at its next meeting discuss making a sales-tax money allocation for a library. He said it’s important for the council to consider a library because of concerns from Sartell residents. (See related story about library rally.) If money is not allocated for a library, Peterson said, then it’s likely a library will not happen. Peterson noted many city residents voted for the half-cent sales tax because they thought, as per the ballot question, that the money would buy a community center with a library in it. Setting aside money – any money – for a library is at least worth a council discussion, Peterson suggested.
The Friends of the Library group in Sartell has requested the council set aside $1.6 million in sales-tax money for a library that would be built next year.
Mayor Sarah Jane Nicoll said it would be premature to allocate money for a library until the Great River Regional Library system completes its long-range assessment.
Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni agreed, saying that putting a dollar amount on a library service would tend to box the city and GRRL, possibly undermining any compromise that could be achieved eventually. At this point, GRRL is still uncertain as to what kind of library service it could provide to Sartell, she added, but both the council and GRRL have stated they are committed to some kind of library service for Sartell.
Nicoll made the motion to consider allocating money for a library only after a GRRL assessment is completed.
More on center
All of the discussion about the community center and the library came about after Amy Braig-Lindstrom, at the beginning of the council meeting, requested the agenda be amended to allow discussion of those topics.
The money-allocation discussion that gave rise to the issue above was started by council member Braig-Lindstrom, who said she thinks there may be unfair competition from the city with its south-site community center, which is so near to Fitness Evolution, the upcoming regional YMCA center and more.
Braig-Lindstrom noted when she suggested in the past the public should be able to rent city hall for various social uses, all other council members voted against that idea, saying it would be unfair competition by the city with local businesses. Why, Braig-Lindstrom, is that any different than the competition engendered by a south-site community center in the near future? Braig-Lindstrom also said community-center amenities at the south site might be needless duplications alongside other services in that area, or even with the school district.
Braig-Lindstrom also questioned the number of gyms in the center, noting the YMCA will have gyms, the school system has gyms.
“When do we have too many gyms?” she asked.
Mayor Sarah Jane Nicoll said the council, in exploring a center, was careful not to duplicate services. A walking track in the center, she said, would not be unfair competition since most people who go to Fitness Evolution do so not just for walking exercise. There is a strong desire from Sartell residents for a recreational component at the community center, including from senior citizens, Nicoll added. She said the council was told repeatedly by residents there is not enough gymnasium space in the city – thus, the three gyms planned for the center. Nicoll added the council and the school district had discussed extensively the issue of potential duplications.
Peterson said he is concerned about operational-maintenance costs at the community center. When, he asked, will such costs be known? Will senior citizens be asked to pay rent for their space within the community center? All costs of the center should be re-evaluated, Peterson said, including the need for a walking track, for example. St. Cloud, he noted, has paid the lion’s share of the cost of operating the Whitney Senior Center.
Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni said operational costs will become known as the center plans become more definite. Costs, including whether to charge seniors for the space, will be determined by the city council, she said. At the moment, however, the senior space is being designed with the assumption it can be used with payment of fees.