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Elmore council reverses library funding decision

By Staff | Nov 15, 2010

Given a second chance, Elmore officials gave a thumbs up to $250,000 in federal funding for a new library.

Last month, the City Council on a 2-2 vote turned down a $150,000 grant and $100,000 loan awarded by the USDA Rural Development Agency for the project.

When City Clerk Dianne Nowak contacted the USDA officials in Marshall to inform them of the council’s decision, the agency’s community programs specialist Shane Hastings recommended city officials hold a meeting.

“I wanted to give residents and the council a chance to ask any questions they might have and that they understood what the program offered,” says Hastings. “They needed to know once the money is returned, it’s gone.”

A special council meeting was held on Nov. 4 and about 35 people were in attendance.

Following nearly one hour of discussion, the council this time voted 3-1 to accept the $250,000.

As they did in October, council members Pat Coupanger and Edrys Viland were in favor of accepting the funding and acting Mayor Keven Sullivan was against.

But, outgoing Councilman Jim Volz voted yes.

The Register was unable to contact Volz for a explanation on why he changed his mind.

Sullivan thinks Volz may have switched his vote because he felt the city getting the grant and loan was inevitable.

“The USDA can hold the money up to five years. If it wasn’t this council, they would have been back in January and would have kept coming back until it passed,” he says.

As to why Sullivan voted no, he says it’s a matter of principle.

“I’ve had a lot of people who I have talked to tell me I’m doing the right thing,” he says.

The newly elected mayor contends payback of the $100,000 loan is too long and the amount paid with interest is double.

Under the USDA program, the $100,000 is repaid over 40 years at an interest rate of 4.5 percent. The one-time annual payment would be around $5,000.

Although library supporters are planning to raise funds to repay the loan, Sullivan says money will be budgeted in case the city has to make the payment

Under the present economic conditions, Sullivan thinks the money could be put to better use.

“To spend money on that is not a high priority for me. Our state and county officials are cutting back on their budgets. We need to do the same,” he says.

Two backers of the project have stepped up to pledge their financial support.

Bill and Nancy Hurd will match the first $2,500 raised each year for the annual loan payment.

The Hurds already have contributed $12,500 to purchase the building at 107 E. Willis St. for the new library and made a donation to repair the roof.

“I may have lost the mayoral election, but my commitment to revitalize Elmore is still there,” says Hurd. “My wife and I have a deep-seeded belief that people who are fortunate have an obligation to give back.”

Coupanger says the next step will be to meet an Albert Lea architect firm that has been hired to review the renovation plans.

She says in addition to getting a new library, there also will be a community meeting room for the public to use.