by Dennis Dalman
A branch library should be the number-one priority uppermost in mind when planning for a Sartell Community Center, said Joe Perske, former Sartell mayor.
Perske gave an impassioned talk in favor of a library at an April 20 public-input meeting after a dozen people, representing sporting and recreational groups, shared their ideas for a center (see related story).
Agreeing with the speakers who spoke before him, Perske acknowledged there is a need for more indoor recreational space in Sartell.
“Those gyms get used and used and used,” he said.
For years, Perske was a teacher and soccer coach in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District.
After acknowledging that need, Perske turned to the subject of a library, a facility that has been a “long-time coming” with residents waiting for it for a long time.
Perske referred to several public-input surveys taken during the past decade or so on which a “library” was at the very top or very near the top of every survey conducted concerning a Sartell Community Center and amenities to be constructed with revenue from the regional half-cent sales tax. Perske also noted a senior center and space for historical artifacts were also consistently desired by people who took those surveys.
He said just because “library mongers are not here screaming in the microphone” doesn’t mean residents don’t want a library. They do, he said, and the surveys year after year prove it.
Records show about 5,000 people in Sartell use the St. Cloud Library and/or its Waite Park branch library. Those people spend money when they go there instead of spending it in Sartell, Perske said. Sartell, he added, pays $250,000 as its share for being a member of the Great River Regional Library system. It’s time, he said, Sartell gets its own for the sake of all residents, including children who will have close-to-home access to one.
“It’s very, very important” Sartell have its own branch library, Perske said.
The GRRL network will provide all of the materials and the personnel to open a Sartell branch, but only if Sartell first commits to providing an adequate facility for the service.
City administrator Mary Degiovanni noted a group of city people will soon meet with GRRL to discuss needs, and those needs will be included in plans for a community center.
Perske said his first grandchild, a girl, was born six weeks ago. He said he hopes when she is “out of diapers,” she will have access to a Sartell library.