The Cloquet City Council tabled a vote to issue $1.5 million in general obligation bonds after bids for a 7,000-square-foot expansion of the library were approximately 30% higher than estimated.

The expansion was estimated to cost about $2.25 million when the city was awarded a $784,000 Library Construction Grant from the Minnesota Department of Education. Construction bids received recently pushed the cost to nearly $3 million, according to City Administrator Aaron Reeves.

The council also tabled a vote on the 2020 preliminary budget and levy because of uncertainty around the library and other 2020 expenditures. The council must set a preliminary levy by its meeting Sept. 17.

Tim Meyer of Meyer Group Architecture in Duluth offered the council suggestions for possible cuts:

  • Ceiling decorations in the new children’s and teen rooms;
  • Replacing two existing water fountains and adding two more in the expansion area;
  • An office for the assistant library director;
  • Baseboard heaters in the expansion area.

Taylor Cohne, a student a Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, searches for some books for a class at the Cloquet Public Library Tuesday, Sept. 3. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal
Taylor Cohne, a student a Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, searches for some books for a class at the Cloquet Public Library Tuesday, Sept. 3. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

Meyer estimated this could save approximately $135,000.

Other cuts could include upgrades added to the original building, the security and surveillance system and the planned remodel and expansion of the children’s area. Meyer told the councilors they could reduce costs by delaying construction in January and February and asking the companies to rebid the work.

“That package is an outline of things we would consider to try to do to reduce costs,” Meyer said. “We are comfortable that we can get the project down to the city’s budget, but there are things that we would consider to be very important to the operation of the library long term."

Larry Anderson, treasurer of the Cloquet Shaw Memorial Library Foundation, said the CSMLFwould try to raise another $250,000 to help with construction costs. The CSMLF has already pledged $275,000 to the project to pay for furniture and fixtures.

Anderson said after the meeting he hopes the additional money from the library would be targeted to pay for some of the alternate deductions.

He also said there is more potential money out there related to naming rights at the library. He said the CSMLF wasn't considering naming the library or expansion after a person or entity, but there is a possibility for sponsorships of individual rooms, display cases and other parts of the library.

Xavier Downwind, 13, uses the internet at the Cloquet Public Library after school on Tuesday, Sept. 3. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal
Xavier Downwind, 13, uses the internet at the Cloquet Public Library after school on Tuesday, Sept. 3. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

Anderson said the only item on the alternate deductions list he was prepared to compromise on was the baseboard heaters. The other items, which total about $85,000, need to be included in the expanded library.

Sean Morrissey of Johnson Wilson Constructors in Duluth said he would like to work with the council and the library to get the project back within the city’s budget. He said he hopes to begin work before winter, which makes construction more expensive.

Reeves said if the library expansion went forward with the bids the city received, it would be about $30,000 — about a 1% levy increase — in bond payments each year. Reeves told the councilors if they want to continue with the library expansion and budgeted expenditures in 2020, such as a new parks director position, they would be looking at about a 5% levy increase.

The City Council will next meet Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.