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Library expansion: $1.5 million; board to pay company $12,500 for study to help determine feasibility

Library expansion: $1.5 million; board to pay company $12,500 for study to help determine feasibility

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The Portage Library Board thinks the community can support a $1.5 million library expansion project, and it hired a consultant Tuesday that will conduct a study aimed at proving it.

Shortly after deciding on the target cost for the expansion, the board voted unanimously to contract with Madison, Ind.-based Woodburn, Kyle & Co. to conduct a campaign planning study to determine the community's ability to fundraise for the project.

The study, which will cost the library board $12,500, will be presented in early August and should help determine the amount of money the community would be able to contribute to the project.

"We will figure out where the community is," said board member Addie Tamboli. "I think it is money very well spent."

The board expects the project to be funded in thirds - one third by the city, one third by the Bidwell Foundation and one third from community fundraising. Both the city and the Bidwell Foundation still need to approve funding for the project.

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.

Early estimates for the expansion, provided by project architect Michael Bahr of Plunkett Rayisch Architects, suggested it would cost between $1.8 million and $2.4 million. Board members believe they can pare down the cost to bring it in line with their $1.5 million target.

That target was proposed Tuesday, despite some hesitation by board members who felt that choosing a number amounted to a "shot in the dark" without a real idea of what the community or the city can contribute.

Library Director Shannon Stiller Schultz said, however, that the board needed a starting point to work with and to present to the city and other stakeholders.

"It is just like building a house. You don't just say you want all of these things and just draw it. You have to have a number that you are comfortable with," she said.

The planning study, according to Woodburn, Kyle and Co. CEO Peter Woodburn, will "test the waters" for community fundraising. It will involve dozens of interviews with local people and could "leverage" support for the project by proving the community is willing and able to step up, he said.

Once the study is completed, the board will have the option to hire the firm to conduct the fundraising campaign at a cost of $90,000 to $125,000.

Woodburn said his firm has worked on many community fundraising campaigns in Wisconsin, including a recent library project in Hartford.

The city likely will make a decision on the project in the fall, during the city budget process for the following year. The Bidwell Foundation's gift is likely dependent on the city agreeing to contribute to the project.

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