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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Back to the drawing board for SL library expansion

Monday, December 10, 2012

An architect's 2011 conception for an expanded, renovated library is now a year old. Could the plan be pared down?
A year after an architect's plan was drawn up for a major expansion to the Storm Lake Public Library, a project to answer the space needs at the library is no closer to reality.

City officials say a proposal will be discussed at Monday's library board meeting that the board return to the original needs assessment study and try to revise it.

"We are just trying to figure out what the next step should be, but before we can do that, we need to know what it is that we truly need," City Manager Jim Patrick said. "We may need to brush off the needs assessment and re-examine what it is that we are trying to achieve, and how much room we really need to do that."

The assessment originally indicated that a town the size of Storm Lake needs twice as much library square footage as the current building allows. In December 2011, an architect specializing in library buildings was brought in, public meetings were held, and a concept drawing for the expanded library drawn on the spot. By February, it was converted to a computer model for a construction project that would include a two-story addition housing quiet study rooms, a tech commons, new youth/childrens areas, fireside comfort reading areas and an adult fiction/nonfction department on a mezzanine floor, open in the center to the main floor below.

At over 28,000 square-feet and an estimated pricetag near $7 million, sticker shock quickly set in, and the city council has never in open session discussed proceeding with that project.

Still, the need for library improvement is still there, and with the City preparing to build a budget for fiscal 2013-14, Patrick said it is time to reconsider the direction for the facility.

Several months ago, the City drew a plan to move the library to the vacant former South Elementary building, but the idea did not seem to catch on with the library board or the public. Another plan for South was drawn that did not include the library, but did feature a new space for Witter Art Gallery. Moving the gallery would free up more space for the library in the existing building they now share, according to Patrick. However, no funding is in place to move forward with South, and that project could be a few years off.

Patrick also suggested at one point that combining a new library with the high school expansion could be a possibility, but the school district was already committed to a public vote for funding of its high school project, and is moving forward with its own plan.

Members of the library board have in the past suggested going back to the architect, FEH Associates Inc., and asking the firm to come up with a pared-down, less expensive version of their plan. Patrick said that has not been ruled out, but feels that revisiting the feasibility process first would be a more practical approach.

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