Funding for Hamline-Midway Branch Library renovation or replacement is one of five projects that made it through the first round of the 2022-2023 Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) process.
Advocates for saving the library, renovating the library, building a new facility on the library site or elsewhere, and even those who want to be able to “dream big” and have a combined new library with the Hancock Recreation Center are expected to testify at a virtual public hearing June 14.
The city’s CIB Committee began reviewing recommended projects May 10. Find meeting and hearing links at https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/mayors-office/committees-boards-and-commissions/capital-improvement-budget-cib
The hearing may not be another round of debate over just the library and its future. Many other projects didn’t make the cut, which is like to bring some pushback from those project allies at the upcoming public hearing. Those include a sidewalk along Larpenteur Avenue and a long-awaited replacement for the Central Police District headquarters, which would serve part of Frogtown.
Past projects that ranked highly, including replacement of the East Side’s Fire Station 7, also fell off of the list this time around. That also raised red flags for some committee members. CIB Committee Chairman Darren Tobolt questioned the shifts in rankings. He asked if the plans for a new fire station could be used in the future if the request is funded. Fire Station 7 and Pedro Park had funding taken away last year to balance the city budget.
“These were the projects that came to the top,’ said CIB Committee Member Devon Driscoll. “This is what the capital planning committee decided.”
How does CIB process work?
The CIB process has changed in recent years. In even-numbered years, neighborhood-generated projects vie for a share of $1 million. In the spring of the odd-numbered years, a working group composed of representatives from city departments and the CIB Committee review project proposals and five-year plans submitted by city departments. The working group ranks projects as well as ongoing city annual programs.
The ranking are then released for community review and input. The committee reviews projects funded with bonds, various state and federal funds, and almost $21 million in federal Community Development Block Grants.
By the end of June, the CIB Committee forwards it recommendations to the mayor for inclusion in the city’s 2022 budget. The projects then go through a city council review process before a final vote at year’s end.
During the process, the CIB Committee, the mayor and council members can make changes.
Hamline Midway Branch Library, North End Community Center, Safe Routes to School for Bruce Vento Elementary and parks deferred maintenance are recommended by the working group. The chosen four total $14.168 million over 2022 and 2023. No police or fire projects were recommended.
The library proposal is presented as “funding to renovate/expand or rebuild the Hamline Midway Library on its existing site to create a new library that meets the community’s current and future needs. The renovated/expanded or new library will be a dynamic, technology-enabled, inviting gathering space and resource hub that strengthens the social infrastructure of the Hamline Midway neighborhood. The renovated/expanded or new library will have additional square footage and a design and functionality that will be co-created with the community and expert architects, engineers and designers.”
Annual programs total $7.832 million for 2022 and 2023. The largest recommendation is for citywide long-term capital maintenance, at $3 million over two years. Other programs recommended include citywide tree planting ($660,000), outdoor sports courts restoration ($460,000), and bike/pedestrian and traffic safety ($450,000). Children play area improvements were left out at 500,000.
The CDBG fund are used for some projects in low-income neighborhoods but largely go to city housing and commercial development programs, and neighborhood community development corporations.
Fourteen individual projects were left out. Area projects that didn’t make the committee’s cut include Merriam Park improvements ($1.5 million), Interstate 94 noise wall construction ($101,000) and Central District Police Station ($9.55 million).
For Merriam Park, funds are sought to replace the 27-year-old play area and 16-year-old skate park. When citywide play areas are scrutinized, Merriam Park ranks third in need of replacement. The skate park is also at the end of its useful life. The park has had a master plan in place for more than a decade but has been unable to obtain funding in past CIB cycles.
Merriam Park Recreation Center, along with Oxford, Dunning and three other recreation center buildings, is in line for new roofs or mechanical systems under the deferred maintenance program.
Public Works sought funding to build a noise wall along the south side of I-94 between Prior and Fairview avenues. The city funds would match $900,000 from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Public Works also sought funding to build sidewalks along Larpenteur from Dale Street to Farrington Street.
Police sought funding for a new Central District building to be located in the Rice Street area. Area residents have sought to replace an old rental facility for more than two decades. Central is currently housed out of the Main police headquarters building.