A Hennepin County feasibility study has recommended construction of a new library in Excelsior on one of two privately owned sites on Water Street, and the tiny Lake Minnetonka community is urging county commissioners to proceed with construction in 2010.
But first the project must survive the county's next round of budget cuts.
Excelsior considers the library "a cherished community asset'' vital to the city's success as the "downtown" for the entire south shore area, Excelsior Mayor Nick Ruehl said in a recent letter to the Hennepin County Board.
Next month, commissioners will review the feasibility study and consider whether to move ahead on a new $5 million Excelsior Library along with other capital projects scheduled between 2009 and 2013, said County Administrator Richard Johnson. A new library in Brooklyn Park is also under consideration, he said.
Given the economy and dropping property values, Johnson is recommending that the board scale back or delay some $200 million in capital projects to reduce spending on debt service. The less property tax revenue that is committed to paying off debt, the more that is available for county operating expenses, Johnson said.
Johnson put the proposed Excelsior and Brooklyn Park libraries on the list of projects that could be delayed. But Commissioner Jan Callison of Minnetonka, for whom a new Excelsior Library is a top priority, has opposed a delay.
The two recommended library sites for Excelsior, at 301 and 337 Water St., were chosen from 13 considered. They stood out because of their lot size, land cost, ease of access and community visibility, the feasibility study said.
A new 7,200-square-foot library with 22 parking spaces -- nearly twice as large at the existing library -- could be built on either site for about $5 million, including the cost of the land, construction, furnishings and equipment, the study concludes. Construction would take about 20 months after approval by the County Board.
The city is aware the county is struggling with priorities for capital expenditures, Ruehl said.
The old library operates out of cramped quarters and lacks space for library users and workers. The study recommends against remodeling it because the building, constructed in 1965, would need so much work.
A joint library-City Hall building also was considered, but it was ruled out when Excelsior declined to take on the cost of a new City Hall. And the feasibility report rejected using the site that the city offered in Excelsior's east municipal parking lot because it would have required construction of a parking ramp.
A stand-alone library on either of the two private sites would offer the best service at the lowest price, the study said.
Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711