Portage County Library Renovations Spark Debate About Who Should Pay

By: Elizabeth Schilder Email
By: Elizabeth Schilder Email

A debate is brewing in Portage County over who should pay for a half a million dollars worth of repairs to the county library.

The City of Stevens Point owns the building the library is in, but the library itself is operated by the county. In counties across the state, common practice is for the city to construct the library building and immediately turn it over to the county or for the county to just pay for and construct the library building itself. The City of Stevens Point took this arrangement one step further by retaining ownership of the building. That decision is now creating problems.

The Portage County Public Library is in need of about half a million dollars in repairs. Under a lease that expired in 2012, the city would be responsible for any improvements to the building that exceed $3,000. The city is in the process of renegotiating its contract with the county. Mayor Andrew Halverson says the current contract is unfair to residents of Stevens Point.

"The residents who live in the city pay county taxes as well. We're concerned that there is a significant amount of double taxation going on for our residents relating to the library, especially given that we built it for four million dollars in the first place."

The city had offered to give the building to the county and contribute $100,000 towards repairs. An offer Mayor Halverson tells NewsChannel 7 was rejected. He adds County Executive Patty Dreier has been clear in the press she may consider moving the library if the city and county can't come to an agreement.

NewsChannel 7 did reach out to Portage county Executive Patty Dreier who declined to comment, saying she's prefer to keep the negotiations out of the media. Mayor Halverson says he would have preferred to keep the negotiations private as well, but since the issue was accidentally brought up in an open session meeting he feels the need to address the debate publicly.

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