Operating plan approved for proposed Madison library despite financial apprehensions | local government
Although several members have expressed concern about the city’s difficult financial situation, the Madison City Council on Tuesday approved an operating plan for a library, municipal services and park pavilion project in Reindahl Park.
Dubbed the “Center of Imagination,” the 16,000-square-foot, $16.1 million building would operate as a new branch in Madison’s public library system, but also provide space for other agencies in the city and non-profit organizations to provide services to residents of the Far East Side.
Board members expressed unanimous support for the idea of the project. But the body ultimately voted 13 to 7 to approve the operating plan estimating $1.72 million in annual costs — action needed to free up money for new planning efforts.
Opponents said they fear the city’s structural deficit — rising costs of maintaining services is outstripping the ability to generate new revenue — and funding priorities in other areas could result in a project financially unsustainable.
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“It’s kind of impossible to vote against a new library, we all understand the benefits of that,” Ald said. Grant Foster, 15th District, said. “But I have no idea what’s going to happen to our budget in a few years, and adding $1.7 million in unclaimed operating costs, I’m really worried…we’re going to be in a situation where we let’s talk about layoffs.”
Supporters said the Imagination Center, which has been discussed for years, will fill an unmet need for the high proportions of people of color, youth and immigrants living near Reindahl Park, North -west of the intersection of East Washington Avenue and Portage Road.
“It’s a long time coming and if you’ve ever been to this area you know there are no gathering spaces,” Ald said. Sheri Carter, 14th District, said. “It’s an area that’s been really waiting for this, and we can’t afford to kick the box anymore.”
While approval of an operating plan was needed to unlock $1.1 million in planning dollars included in the 2022 capital budget, city council would need to act in future budgets to actually fund the center. Imagination, which could open in mid to late 2024.
The operating plan provides for 13 full-time equivalent positions and 13 part-time positions. The library would operate 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
A memo from city department heads identified $218,373 in potential operating cost savings, such as eliminating part-time security guard positions and adjusting library hours to provide it with one employee position instead of two.
The building would also include a 4,000 square foot pavilion for the approximately 91-acre Reindahl Park. The bulk of the construction funds – $10.5 million – are planned for the 2023 capital budget, and the remaining $4.5 million would be sought through private donations.
Photos: January 2022 in photos