The prospect of the city contributing to the proposed $1.5 million Portage Public Library expansion project next year is looking more and more unlikely.

One Common Council member on Thursday said he would like the city to put the issue to referendum, but another suggested a referendum might be unnecessary if there is no support among city leaders.

"It may not be necessary to go to referendum - we may just not want to do it," said Common Council member Fred Reckling, a member for the city's finance committee.

Earlier this month, the library's governing board asked the city to contribute $400,000 to the proposed project, which would update facilities, expand the building size and add space for children's programming. Other money would come from grants and fundraising.

Reckling said the issue might be "clearer" next week when the city's main budget-writing committee meets twice to finalize a draft of the 2012 city budget. In order to contribute to the project, the city would have to borrow money.

The referendum discussion was initiated by Council member Rick Dodd in the opening minutes of Thursday's regular meeting of the Council.

"I have been getting a lot of negative comments on this and whether we really need to do this or not. And whether it is the right time to do it," Dodd said Thursday before broaching the idea of a referendum.

If the city chose to go the referendum route, it would need to pick a day in which an election was taking place in 2012.

Mayor Ken Jahn said Thursday that he would like to see the matter decided during the 2012 budget process instead of a referendum at this point. He recommended waiting on the idea of a referendum.

"I don't know if we are ready to have that as an agenda item," Jahn said.

Jahn said there are a number of things that need to be figured out before a referendum can proceed, including the date, the specific question and the type of referendum - whether it is binding or not binding.

Jahn also said that deciding during the 2012 budget process was more immediate than a referendum.

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"The difficult thing is that referendum would not be held until 2012, so we if we are going to raise the levy to pay for it, we would not have the opportunity to do that until the 2013 budget cycle."

Library officials want the expansion construction to begin in 2012. They are counting on grant funding that might not be available beyond next year.

The nearly 6,000-square-foot expansion of the 253 W. Edgewater St. building would entail improvements to stormwater issues at the main entrance, interior renovations to create a young adult area, the addition of a children's area and other interior changes related to staffing.

The city's 2012 budget is expected to be approved by early December.

3 eateries approved to serve alcohol

The Council approved liquor licenses for three restaurants Thursday.

The Cottonwood Bar and Grill was re-approved for a class B combination license after some corporate restructuring. Randal Heinzel of Pardeeville is the agent on that license for the establishment at 312 DeWitt St.

A class B fermented malt beverage and class C wine license was each approved for Larry's Smokehouse, at 123 E. Cook St., and D'Marco, at 207 W. Cook St. Both are new eateries being opened at familiar locations.

Sueann Speck of Greenfield is the agent responsible for Larry's Smokehouse, and Marco Rally of Oxford is the agent responsible for D'Marco.

All were approved on 8-0 votes by the Council.


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