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Northfield City Council Work Session - July 9, 2013

July 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm
By Jane McWilliams

At 6:00 p.m., prior to the 8:00 work session, the council, city staff, several citizens and a member of the press took a tour of the community to view and learn more about city facilities and projects.  The LWV was not represented in the group. 

Library Board:  Newly appointed Director of Library and IT Services Teresa Jensen and Library Board Chair Hans Muessig presented an illustrated report on the current status of the library and highlighted issues in the library’s future. The attractive, informative document they used during the meeting will be available on the library’s web page. 

The use of the library increases each year. Half way through 2013 attendance is well over last year’s numbers at the same point. During the first 6 months this year, fewer print materials have circulated, but use of E-Resources is already close to last year’s total. This has implications for both the collection and for space allocation. With limited space and a dated print collection, the library has had to weed the collection. New materials and equipment require the library to make adjustments to meet the every changing demands in our society. “Books are not sacred any more,” according to Ms Jensen. Mr. Muessig added that fortunately, through the Southeast Library System (SELCO), we have access to materials not presently in our collection.

Both Ms Jensen and Mr. Muessig spoke positively about the library’s future. In moving toward the Library’s goals to strengthen community, support literacy, provide access to information and foster lifelong learning, they will continue to work with a wide range of partners: for example, Laura Baker School; DEED Workforce Center; Northfield History Collaborative; and Three Rivers Community Action – Head Start, to name but a few listed in the report.  The service area will likely expand by 17% during the next decade, creating changing patterns of circulation, patrons and materials. The WiFi capacity of the building will need upgrading, hours will need to be restored to previous levels, computers replaced and doubled in number, particularly in view of the school district’s technology initiative. Staff will also need training to support the emerging role of the library.

In anticipation of the city council’s work on the 2014 budget, the funding impacts of the library’s upcoming challenges and needs are included in the report.

Park and Recreation Advisory Board:  Speaking for the board, Chair Nathan Knutson mentioned accomplishments during the past year:  decision on a skateboard park; approval and construction of concession stand at the swimming pool; an independent study on trail connectivity; the work of Friends of Way Park, “a model for others”, including fledgling formation of an organization of neighbors of Riverside Park.

Future activities include completion of the skateboard park and concession stand; addition dog parks around town; looking into possibilities for a park in the Fargaze Meadows area; and creation of signage to help people find trails and parks. Mr. Knutson reviewed recent developments around the skateboard park planning. Four possible locations (each assuring a 200 foot setback from the neighboring homes), of an 8000 square foot plaza are being considered. Noise mitigation is a high priority.  He noted that with the shift to Memorial Park, the PRAB wanted to involve the neighborhood. This has slowed the progress a bit but board member Neil Lutsky noted that people around the park have volunteered to work with the city on the solution.

Soil borings have been taken, and the board hopes to have an update on design options from Charlie Hussman at their July 18 meeting. The cost is still unknown, and it is likely there will need to be some fundraising, even with a basic park, perhaps the first step of a phased in design.

Mr. Lutsky noted there are more skate boarders around town now that there isn’t a dedicated place. All seemed to agree that the city will meet its goal of installing a park in 2013. There is no plan to provide a temporary skateboard park this year.

The work session adjourned at 9:20 pm.

Comment: If any members of LWV reading this would like to observe the city council during the coming weeks, please contact Helene Haapala:, as this observer is taking a break. The agenda and materials are found on the city website, usually by Friday prior to each Tuesday meeting. Streamed live versions may be seen on KYMN which also archives the sessions.


  • July 11 2013 at 8:10 am
    Margit Johnson

    Thanks, Jane, and enjoy your well-deserved break!

  • July 11 2013 at 8:15 am
    kiffi summa

    For library advocates: It is really almost an imperative for the Library to regain the hours it lost on evenings, and weekends (Sunday hours) during the cost cuts three years or so ago. As the Library Director pointed out during the discussion, the School District's iPad program will require some supplemental hours of wi-fi access for the 30-40% of students who do not have wi-fi access at their homes. The loss of those evening and weekend hours also cut deeply into the most convenient times for families and minority populations. Ms. Jensen submitted a list of desired improvements; the last on that list (were they ranked?) was a priority for me, and that is an improved space for processing materials by the library staff. If you are aware of the shelves and shelves of materials that come in to our library from the Selco system, and then see the tiny space in which the staff has to facilitate all of their processing, which of course includes newly purchased materials as well as those loaned from other libraries, you would be astounded at the efficiency produced in this totally inadequate workspace. It is typical of our fabulous library staff that they continue to work under very difficult conditions to offer only the best to their patrons. Those who are concerned should speak to their councilors about the needs of the library , NOW, not just for the future...

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