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Library advisory ballot going before voters

The Ellsworth Village Board will hold a non-binding referendum in November to gauge taxpayer support for the incurring up to $3 million in debt for the creation of additional library space in Ellsworth.

The decision Monday night came at the library building/space committee's request. The $3 million cover the costs of acquiring a new space to remodel for expansion and achieve adequate standards for libraries put forth by the state.

The finance committee recently met with Sean Lentz of Ehlers Inc., who deals with public financing. Members discussed the library overview and what ability the village would have to finance the project. The village borrowing capacity at the beginning of 2018 was $6,707,415, which is 67 percent of the limit. The village is also in good position to borrow, with debt levy currently at zero.

According to Wisconsin Public Library Standards, the Ellsworth Public Library is below even the basic level of recommendations for print items owned, periodical titles received, public use computers and collection size for the overall service population.

"We have the budget for the materials, we just don't have the space," Library Director Tiffany Meyer said. "Our shelves are full to the brim."

About 40 percent of card holders live within the village, with the other 60 percent residing in the outlying townships, according to Meyer. The library has begun to put together plans on sources to raise money, but only so much can be done before they receive a full budget for the project. This won't be able to happen until a proposal is accepted to expand.

"It's mostly a space issue, but it's also accessibility," Meyer said. "It's an older building that has a lot of needs of its own. When people come in who have mobility concerns, it can be hard to get around."

Plans for a new space go back to 2012, as building/space committee meetings were facilitated by John Thompson, director of the Indianhead Federated Library System, of which the Ellsworth Public Library is a member. The building/space committee determined that expanding upon an existing building in the village was the most affordable option.

Benefits of expansion would include greater collection sizes, meeting space, quiet areas for tutoring and more public use computers. But the biggest benefit Meyer envisions is being able to do library programs on-site.

"Many programs we have to do off-site because we can't accommodate enough people," Meyer said. "There are summer programs where between 120 and 150 people show up."

The library works with area churches to host the programs. The library provides numerous cultural activities and general events for the community at large, including bringing presenters in and having performers for the youth.

"When people are looking to move to an area, they look at how they are going to be entertained," Meyer said. "That's one of the the things that the library can provide."

Zach Dwyer

Zach Dwyer is a senior journalism student at UW-River Falls. He is an intern reporter for RiverTown Multimedia during the summer of 2018 covering features and sports. He was previously a news intern in the summer of 2017 for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. 

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