Library board delays levy discussion


FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Library board is going to create a 5-year plan, and then discuss a possible citywide levy to help pay for it..

At Thursday’s monthly board of trustees meeting, the board decided to push the levy discussion past the creation of the five-year outlook. Plans for that are set to begin with some community meetings in September. The board had originally planned to start those meetings last year, but the pandemic delayed the process.

Thursday’s discussion first focused on building repairs and maintenance on the library, which was remodeled from a former physicians clinic in 2007.

Trustee Kathy Burkhardt asked if the budget has ever included setting money aside for maintenance or repairs.

“Do we need to look at it more carefully and start planning for those things. I don’t know we’ve ever budgeted for those kinds of things and I’m talking about maintenance on the building. Those are things we need to know so we have a better idea of what to do and how to build a 5-year plan,” she said.

Trustee Tom Pollpeter asked what the city’s role with the building was.

Fort Madison Library Director Sarah Clendineng said the maintenance of the building does come from the city’s budget.

“That’s my thought process – that this is a city building and the library is a renter or leaser… or squatter,” Pollpeter said with a laugh.

Clendineng said that was a correct analysis.

“It is a city building and at the end of the day almost all the money we spend on maintaining the building comes from the city. We did have a trust for maintenance, but that has been spent over the years. The money to maintain the library comes from the city’s general fund,” Clendineng said.

“But like other departments we need to budget for that. Building maintenance is one thing that the city has struggled with since I’ve been here.”

Burkhardt said she still thinks those things should be part of the library’s 5-year plan.

The board then decided to move discussion on the levy until after the 5-year plan has been created so the board has a better understanding of what revenues and expenses will look like.

“It would be easier to sell the levy if we have a concrete plan,” she said.

Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld met with the board during it’s February meeting to discuss the possibility of a .27/$1,000 levy that is allowable under Iowa law, if approved by city voters.

Mohrfeld told the group that would generate about $80,000 and would inject needed cash into the facility and the library board would have control over those funds. Part of that February discussion was to use some of those funds for curb appeal and building maintenance.

Mohrfeld told the board in February that the library’s percentage of expenses was outpacing increases in city revenue. The levy, if passed during a regular city election, would give the board control over that portion of the budget.

Clendineng also suggested Thursday night that the library board create a building committee. No action was taken on the creation of the committee because it wasn’t listed as an agenda item for Thursday.

The building committee would make recommendations to the full library board, and if approved those recommendations would be considered by the city.

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