Arcadia Public Library board requests additional funding

In order to help offset skyrocketing insurance costs, the Arcadia Public Library board requested additional funding from the city council at last Wednesday’s meeting.

Elva Helwig, president of the library board, said that insurance premiums for the library’s two employees increased by about $39,000 from last year. While they were able to absorb some of the increased costs, they requested an additional $1,600 per month from the city to help cover approximately half of the cost for 2023.

Helwig said it is the first time the library has asked for an increase in five years. She said 1,426 city residents are registered with library cards and 657 have already renewed for 2023. Additionally, she said there are 1,226 people who use the library for various services monthly at no charge. 

“The library is not what it used to be,” Helwig said. “It is now a resource center for anyone to do any kind of research.” 

She said people who do not have internet access at home use the library, as do people who need help with online job applications and resumes. The library also allows  for conference rooms to be used by social services workers. 

If the library does not get an increase, Helwig said they would have to make a “major cut in our services to our patrons.” That could include reducing hours and cutting programs.

“It hit us hard,” Helwig said. “I think when we got that number, it was a shock to all of us. If it wasn’t so high, we could figure a way to do that.”

Council member Kyle Myhre asked what the plans beyond 2023 were. Helwig said that, starting in January, they would begin shopping for rates that are more economical. 

“We’d like to see what we can find to bring that cost down,” Helwig said. “I’m very confident that we can do that.”

The council took no action on the request, but later in the meeting heard that the budget is already tight.

City clerk Angela Berg told the council that currently the budget is $58,000 away from being balanced. If they were to increase funding for the library, that would move that number to $77,200. She said the revenues are set, so they’ll have to find other ways to make up the difference.

One suggested made by Myhre was to remove a new police squad car from the budget and, instead, pay for the vehicle from the city’s general fund after they have a more exact idea on what the cost with the trade-in would be. Though, he acknowledged that the city would still have to be spending the money, so doing some would just be to make the budget look better.

Police Chief Diana Anderson said the city ordered a new squad last year, but the order was cancelled by Dodge due to a supply chain shortage. She has not yet been able to order a new vehicle, but said that continuing to use the same squad would result in higher maintenance costs. 

Myhre also suggested removing $5,000 which was being held for the purchase of firearms, which Anderson agreed to do, saying haven’t been able to “pull the trigger” on buying new guns because they haven’t found one they like. 

Myhre also questioned if the city could use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help offset some costs, including resealing Kid’s Kingdom at Memorial Park, which would save $10,000. Though, Berg thought that might not qualify if it is considered maintenance costs.

Myhre also suggested selling the city’s recreation center. “If we’re not going to use it for anything…there isn’t winter basketball league in there anymore, it’s going to fall apart.”

Mayor Kevin Mayzek and alderman Joe Feltes suggested there may be contractual issues that would prevent the city from selling the building, but they didn’t know the specifics. It was also suggested that the city could sell the parking lot behind Detox Bar. 

In other matters, the city heard that Anderson has hired Lexipol, a company that specializes in police policies and procedures to update the Arcadia Police Department’s policies. Anderson requested council members be appointed to a committee to review the policies before they go before the full council for approval. Myhre, who is a Trempealeau County Sheriff’s Department deputy, and Duane Matelski volunteered to join the committee. 

The council also:

• Approved Johnson and Block to conduct the 2022 audit. 

• Authorized the transfer of $10,000 for the US Army Corps Design of Reach 1. That authorization is expected to unlock federal money. Myhre asked if there was a limit the Corps was going to charge in design fees. 

“That’s $10,000 now, whatever, but are they going to want $200,000 or $300,000 in the next few months?” Myhre asked. “It’s weird to say that design is an infinite number until they’re done and then we’ll, somehow, be under $10 million.” 

Mayzek said he’ll get clarification on how much the design fees. Feltes said that if the city had contracted the project through the private sector, it would already be done. 

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