Little Suamico chairman: No more town votes on library

Private solution may be under consideration
By: 
Warren Bluhm
News Editor

The Little Suamico town chairman said Feb. 29 that the town board has no further plans to take any action or pursue an electors vote regarding the purchase of a former bank building for use as a library.

“I said at the Jan. 30 electors meeting, ‘The people have spoken, we’re not pursuing another vote,’ and that is still the case,” said Town Chairman Dale Mohr.

Mohr was responding to a query about social media comments to the effect that the board was working with library supporters to bring the issue to a vote at the annual town meeting on April 16.

“Don’t get me wrong, it would be great to have as many people as possible to come to the annual meeting — it’s the democratic process at its best, and we usually have only 13-25 people show up,” Mohr said. “I just don’t want people to come for the wrong reason, because they’re afraid something is being snuck through.”

Close to 350 people turned out for the special town meeting on Jan. 30 and voted 192-148 to reject a proposal for the town to buy the former BMO Harris Bank at 1288 E. Frontage Road for use as a town library and county offices.

The 56.4% no vote was by a greater percentage than the 37-31 vote at an earlier town meeting held Nov. 7. The town board worked harder to generate a turnout for the January meeting.

Mohr did say he is aware of conversations to have private enterprise handle the project.

“When Oconto County allocated its dollars, they were for use by any 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency or municipality,” Mohr said. “If a nonprofit were to come in to take over that building, a library fits our land-use plan for that area and the town would not stand in its way.”

The rejected proposal was for the town to buy the vacant building for an estimated $499,900 and remodel it for about $370,000, for a total cost of $869,900. Oconto County would contribute $494,597 toward the project, including $154,431 in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

Oconto County would lease a portion of the building for offices to serve the populous southern corner of the county, including a sheriff’s substation and health and human services offices.

Grants and donations — including a $100,000 grant pledged by the Leon H. And Clymene M. Bond Foundation — would have reduced the town’s share to $15,673 for the building purchase and about $159,630 for the remodeling. Any interested nonprofit presumably would have to raise the funds that the town voters chose not to pay.

As set by state statutes, the annual town meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 16 at the Little Suamico Town Hall, 5964-A County Road S. Mohr said any town resident can make a motion on any issue, but he repeated that the town board does not plan to introduce any motions and would have to publish a 15-day notice if it did.

wbluhm@newmedia-wi.com