Tag Archives: Aberdeen

Aberdeen Candidate Forum videos fixed

Earlier this week I posted videos from the Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen School Board candidate forum held this previous Saturday. The original posts had the wrong versions of the videos. I have replaced those videos with version that now have the the proper audio embedded. I apologize for the bad audio included in the original posts.

The two posts in question are:



The posts listed above now have the correct video. I have also embedded both video below into this post:

Aberdeen School Board Candidate Forum:

Aberdeen City Council Candidate Forum:

Video of the Aberdeen School Board Candidate Forum

Aberdeen School Board Candidate Forum

*** Updated on May 8, 2017. The original post had the wrong version of this video. I have replaced it with a video that has the proper audio embedded. I apologize for the bad audio included in the original post.

Yesterday, May 7th, the League of Women Voters of Aberdeen, SD, and the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum in Aberdeen. There were two parts to the forum. The first part was the City Council Candidate Forum; which I highlighted in an earlier post. The second forum was for the Aberdeen School Board and will be the focus of this post.

Channel 7 will be broadcasting the event until election day. But for those of us who don’t have Cable TV I recorded the event and have it posted below. Alternatively you can click here to directly view the forum on YouTube.

There are five candidates running for three seats in this race. The five candidates running for Aberdeen School Board are:

  • Ken Santema – Facebook – That’s me…
  • Aaron Schultz – Facebook
  • Renee Wise – Facebook
  • Brian Sharp, incumbent – Facebook
  • Kevin Burckhard, incumbent – Facebook. Burckhard was not able to attend the forum.

The third incumbent, Todd Kolden, did not seek reelection (thank-you for your service Todd!).

Here is the video. It is just under an hour in length.

I will post more about the questions on my campaign Facebook page, and possibly here (blogging is much easier than Facebook posting).

Video of the Aberdeen City Council Candidate Forum

Aberdeen City Council Forum

*** Updated on May 9, 2017. The original post had the wrong version of this video. I have replaced it with a video that has the proper audio embedded. I apologize for the bad audio included in the original post.

Yesterday, May 7th, the League of Women Voters of Aberdeen, SD, and the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum in Aberdeen. There were two parts to the forum. The first part was the City Council Candidate Forum and will be highlighted in this post. The second forum was for the Aberdeen School Board and will be posted next.

Channel 7 will be broadcasting the event until election day. But for those of us who don’t have Cable TV I recorded the event and have it posted below. Alternatively you can click here to directly view the forum on YouTube.

The ten candidates running for city council are:

NW District five-year term candidates:
The incumbent Todd Campbell is not running for reelection.

SE District three-year term candidates:

  • Tim Prater – Facebook
  • Dennis “Mike” Olson – Facebook – Olson is the incumbent appointee. He has to be elected to serve the rest of his term.

NE District five-year term candidates:

SE District five-year term candidates:

Here is the video. It is about an hour an a half long.

I don’t have much to say about this race. I will say however that as a resident of Aberdeen I think the city looking into building an event center is a horrible idea for many reasons….

Video of Clare Lopez speaking at the Americans First, Task Force, event

On Thursday, April 6, the Americans First, Task Force, hosted an event at the DEC in Aberdeen to address refugees in Aberdeen from a conservative viewpoint. The speaker at this event was Clare Lopez of the Center for Security Policy. Earlier I posted about the protesters of this event. This post will focus on the video I shot at this event. As with most of these events I record, I will post these videos unedited (mostly, more on that below) and without commentary. If I find time I will blog separately about what I agree/disagree with from the event.

I have the event split into three separate YouTube videos to make it easier for people to view the portions of the event they wish. I have also included a fourth video below, which is actually a playlist including all three videos playing back to back.

The first video is the opening of the meeting and some remarks from Amy Willson, Chapter leader for Act for America SD. This video is just under nineteen minutes long.

The second video is the main presentation from Clare Lopez. It is completely unedited. It is interesting to note that she brought some things about Aberdeen specifically into her presentation. This is something many out-of-town speakers often fail to do. The video is just under one hour and eight minutes long.

The third and final video is the question and answer session with Clare Lopez. The video is just over thirty-six minutes long. I had somewhat of a technical issue filming this portion of the event. During the middle of the Q&A session I lost the video feed due to a technical issue with my camera. As always I was also recording the audio; so the audio from that portion of the Q&A session has been inserted to make the recording complete. That is the only edit to this video; no portion of this was edited for content.

Finally I will include this playlist which includes all of the three videos.

Pictures of protesters at the Americans First, Task Force meeting, plus video of organizer

On Thursday, April 6, the Americans First, Task Force, held another event in Aberdeen revolving around the whole refugee issue. The speaker at this event was Clare Lopez of the Center for Security Policy. I will have a blog post up shortly with video I shot of her presentation. But for this post I want to focus on the protesters outside the event.

Up first is this video of a short interview with Briggs Tople. Tople is the Chair of the Aberdeen High School Democrats and spearheaded this protest effort. The video below allows Tople to explain in his own words why he felt this protest was necessary:

I think Tople should be commended for organizing this protest. Even people who do not agree with Tople should acknowledge that this young man is proactively doing something about an issue which resonates deeply.

I didn’t get a chance to get video interviews with other protesters; mostly because I wanted to get into the event and pick a good spot to record the meeting (it was a packed house). Over at Dakota Free Press there are a few videos of what other protesters had to say. I was able to get a few pictures of the protesters before the meeting started. Here are a few of those pictures:

Protesters of the Americans First, Task Force, meeting in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 4/6/17.
Protesters of the Americans First, Task Force, meeting in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 4/6/17.
Protesters of the Americans First, Task Force, meeting in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 4/6/17.
Protesters of the Americans First, Task Force, meeting in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 4/6/17.
Protesters of the Americans First, Task Force, meeting in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 4/6/17.
Protesters of the Americans First, Task Force, meeting in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 4/6/17.

Up next I’ll have the video footage I shot from within the event.

Aberdeen Public Schools Elementary Chorus singing in Pierre

On Thursday, February 18, the Aberdeen Public Schools Elementary Chorus was singing in the rotunda of the SD Capital building. I happened to be there that day and recorded the event. Of course the fact my son happens to be in the choir gave me reason to ensure I was in Pierre that day.

Here is the video of the event. This video lasts for 7 1/2 minutes. There was a technical difficulty about 2:30 into the video, so up to a half minute of a song is gone. These kids did a superb job!

Enjoy the video:


Aberdeen will get a new library

"Bethlehem Lot", the site purchased for the new library. Photo by Ken Santema 10/19/15
“Bethlehem Lot”, the site purchased for the new library. Photo by Ken Santema 10/19/15

Over the last month or so I’ve covered the special election for the library bond in Aberdeen. Tonight was election night, and the results have been tweeted out by the Aberdeen American News:

So yes, Aberdeen will get its new library. Here are the results by Voting Center that Sand had tweeted out earlier:

Courthouse Voting Center: 642 Yes, 403 No

AmericInn Voting Center: 471 Yes, 300 No

Ramkota Voting Center: 330 Yes, 218 No

Absentee: 967 Yes, 655 No

Grand Total: 2410 Yes, 1576 No

I would like to congratulate the winning side of this issue. Personally I was against the new library and felt a remodel was a more conservative use of taxpayer money; but it is quite obvious the majority of Aberdeen feels the new library would be an asset to the city. My hats off to the proponents of the new library for running such a successful campaign.

I would like to point out that a total of 3986 votes cast in a municipal special election is probably going set some sort of record in Aberdeen. For that I would like to tip my hat to both campaigns. The get out the vote effort on both sides was commendable.

Notes and video from the Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall

Crowd at the Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Crowd at the Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Last evening there was a Town Hall meeting held at NSU’s Krikac Auditorium to discuss the Library Bond that will be decided by the election on December 15. Previously I’ve posted a few of the reasons I oppose the Library Bond and also posted my chat with a supporter of the Library Bond. Since early voting is already going on I expect this will be the last time I blog about the subject until the results are known.

The town hall was moderated by JJ Perry, Executive Editor of Aberdeen American News. The five panelist were:

Duane Riedel – Concerned citizen that started the petition process so the voters could decide whether to go ahead with the bond.
Todd Campbell – City Councilman that has been opposed to the bond.
Rob Ronayne – City Councilman that has been supportive of the bond.
Peter Ramey – library board of trustees member
Maeve King – library board of trustees president

The audience was allowed to submit questions for the host to ask or step up to the microphone and ask in person.

Here is the video I shot of the event. Aberdeen News will have what is likely to be a much better quality video of the event posted on AberdeenNews.com later this morning.

This post will be done in a similar style to how i handle legislative cracker barrels. I’ll have a section for each question and call out anything said that I find interesting or important. Then I will add my thoughts and observations. I italicized my thoughts and observations to avoid confusion when reading this post.

Perry did clarify at the beginning that this was a discussion, and not a debate.

Opening Remarks

Perry began with the question of why a new or remodeled library is necessary. It was mostly used as opening remarks for the five panelists.

Peter Ramey speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Peter Ramey speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Ramey noted he had moved to Aberdeen about three and half years ago from a community that had a larger and newer library. He feels the Aberdeen Library just doesn’t have enough space for family and children. He also highlighted other space constraint areas. I agree that there isn’t a lot of space, but feel that has more to do with the basement not being fully utilized.

King noted that the library is not “conducive” for studying or implementing new technology. She said there are no places for tutors to have a private place for studying. When talking about the basement she says some patrons of the library are not able to use the library because of allergy issues. More about the allergy issues later, but this is something that should have already been fixed.

Ronayne said the current basement has been rendered unusable due to water issues. He says that leaves Aberdeen with half the space needed to serve the residents. He noted a variety of areas the new library will have expanded room for.

Campbell agrees something needs to be done, and believes everyone would agree. He also acknowledged the current library has issues. He feels it would be excessive to build a new library with the current plan. The current library can be renovated and give the functionality that is wanted. To add to his point, I have yet to find someone who opposes the library bond that wants to get rid of the library. 

Riedel spent most of his intro going through a brief history of his life. He said he has been following the library project since 2009. In the last six years he noted the price of the new library went from 4.8 million in 2009 to much more in 2015. He also noted he was not allowed to go into the current library basement. He was later able to tour it with the City Engineer, Robin Bobzien.  Bobzien assured Riedel that there was no problem in the basement; there were air quality issues, but those could be fixed.  Riedel noted there were issues with the original bids. He also points out the new plan includes architectural features, such as glass, that will increase the heat/air cost of the building. I’ve heard some people ask about Riedel and questioned why he should be trusted as opposition to the library bond. That kind of annoyed me. Riedel is a concerned citizen in Aberdeen and was able to get the petition circulated. His personal history really shouldn’t be relevant (although his history does include relevant experience). 

Is there a price point you are comfortable with?

Campbell said he was more comfortable with the $6.8 million dollar figure, with the foundation supplying about $2 million of it. He noted the new design is beautiful, but it is also very expensive for what the city is getting. He just doesn’t see the numbers adding up for such an undertaking. He noted the City Hall renovation, a 100-year-old building, for about $3 million. That was a three-story building with an elevator. He wonders now why the city isn’t even considering renovating the library. He also noted the foundation had renovating the current library as one of its top three choices of what to do some years back (the current plan wasn’t). Campbell noted the library would structurally be easier (cheaper) to remodel than the City Hall building. I think Campbell did a good job summarizing the fiscal questions many opponents of the bond have.

Ronayne replied that in 2014 the City Council adopted a resolution to build a new library on the Bethlehem site for $7.1 million dollars. Then the foundation came in and said they would raise $2.1 million if they could add some wants to the new library. He noted that now with the foundation donations the city cost of the library will be $5.9 million, a lower cost than what had been resolved by the City Council before. Ronayne also noted that taxes will not go up and or down no matter what happens with this project. Ronayne spent a while talking about how basements are no longer used, especially in retail life downtown Aberdeen. Later in this Town Hall there is a perfect response to the basement talking point. 

What happens if library foundation doesn’t raise the money it promised?

Ronayne said the City will know how successful the fund-raising is going before any shovels are put in the ground. But he did say that the bond is set up so whole amount of the library is borrowed, and the foundation will pay the city their share when they get it. The foundation pledged $600,000 up front, and will pay the rest as it is gotten. Ronayne didn’t answer this. He did a lot of talking, but failed to mention that if the foundation does not raise its $2.1 million that the taxpayers are on the hook for that money.

Campbell noted the bonding agent from Sioux Falls called this particular bond unprecedented (in that part of the bond is backed by a promise with no guarantee from a foundation). The bonding agent has not seen this done anywhere, including Sioux Falls. It puts trust in the foundation to quickly raise $2.1 million. Since the crash of 2008 it has been hard for large sums of money to be raised. Two current examples are the Boys & Girls Club and Safe Harbor, both of which are struggling to raise the money needed to build new facilities. I think Campbell made some good points. All I will add is that both the Boys & Girls Club and Safe Harbor are worthy of donating money to (click the links on their names to donate money).

Riedel did note that if the foundation does not come up with their money that the taxpayers will be on the hook for the interest that will become due on the foundations part of the bond.

Maeve King speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Maeve King speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

King noted the foundation has started putting together a steering committee. She says it has been difficult because of the pending vote, so it makes it hard for them to raise money. She noted the foundation does have a million dollars ready, but some of that will need to be kept back for fundraising. She realizes it won’t be easy, but thinks the goal is attainable.

King was asked about what happens Dec 16 if the bond passes. Will things immediately kick in, or will fundraising be ongoing. She admitted the fundraising would be ongoing with donation likely to happen over five years. She isn’t sure about a timeline. King’s answer should make taxpayers very nervous. If the foundation is not able to keep up its fundraising (something I find quite likely) it will mean the taxpayers on the hook for that money and interest.

Usage of the library

Ramey noted all kinds of people use the library. He said programming a huge area for library use. Programming includes kids activities, workshops, cooking classes, etc… He noted the current library simply doesn’t have the space for programming. Hearing him talk, it would appear programming is the reason a new library is needed. Ramey also said it is obvious to him that a new library is needed, and perhaps isn’t so obvious to those that have lived here a long time. He noted there are almost 9000 library card holders, and the new library should expand that number by 25% to 50%. He also said the opposite of building a new library is doing nothing. Where do I start… My first thought when I hear about all the programming expansions he wants: isn’t that what the ARCC is for? Are we looking at building something to compete with an existing public building? I also would say that the opposite of approving this bond is not doing nothing. Rather it would mean the City Council going back to the drawing board and coming up with a more conservative plan.

King brought up opponents mentioning people no longer needing libraries because of internet access and technology advances making libraries unneeded.  So far in 2015 she noted current checkouts at the library: 220,000 books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. She noted over 600 people attend 80 different classes. King also went into other events. She said more events would be possible with a new facility. Finally, King tried to also say that nobody uses basements anymore. At this time I think the Library should have been looking at how to work with the ARCC to host events instead of building a new library to compete with the ARCC. Another basement remark, the reply to that comes up later in the event. 

Campbell said there is room on the west side of the building. That is possibly up to 3,500 square feet, but most likely 2,500 square feet. That would create more upstairs space without taking away from the parking lot.

Ronayne said it is not possible to expand as far as Campbell thinks. An engineer told him only about 1,200 square feet could be added.

How many times has the library flooded?

Rob Ronayne speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Rob Ronayne speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Ronayne noted this happened twice when he was on the library board. That was back when the basement was used for children programs. He noted some work has been done, and mid-wall flooding occurred after being fixed.

Riedel reminded Ronayne that he had gone down there with the city engineer. He said in 2011 drain tile was put in, but was never hooked up. Then in 2012 more money was spent to hook the drain tile into the sewer. According the engineer it is dry in the basement now. It could be fixed up and made usable again. Riedel was able to see the old insulation hanging down that was never fixed. That is because the library repairs have only been for what is necessary. I have to agree with Riedel that it appears the library hasn’t been doing as much maintenance as it should to fix the problems from water damage in the past. 

An engineer from the back of crowd then shouted out that basements in Aberdeen are not a good thing.

Why mess with the Civic Arena parking?

This is the million dollar question!

Campbell noted that when the property was originally purchased the library was supposed to be a two-story building on the east side of the lot. That would leave a nice big multi-use parking lot. This new plan removed the extra parking that could be shared with the Civic Arena and Theater. The current parking lot is used by a lot of people in the area. It offers parking for Basketball tournaments coming to town and for the Circus. He noted the federal building uses some of these spots. The federal courthouse that the city is trying to sell will also want to use the lot. Downtown parking is already an issue, and this library is making a bad situation worse. He said that at this point it appears the city might have to build a parking ramp in the future. I don’t doubt there will be talk of a parking ramp. I’m guessing the city will want to use a bond for that...

A word from City Councilman Mark Remily

Mark Remily stepped up to the mic for a minute. He said his main job as a city council-member is to listen to the people of Aberdeen. He said he would love to have a new library if he could find support for it. Recently he has been circulating a petition unrelated to the library; and while doing so he had a lot of people ask if this was the library petition. He doesn’t see enough support for the library from the people to support the bond. The petition Remily is referring to is the anti-gerrymandering initiated amendment he was spearheading for Farmers Union. I haven’t blogged about that amendment yet, but at a quick glance it appears to be good.

Ramey piped in to note there are a lot of signs up around town showing support. All I will say here is that I’ve followed politics long enough to realize those little signs in yards to little, if anything, to show how much a candidate or ballot question is supported. 

A question comparing the library to the YMCA and Aquatics Center.

King noted the library is free for all to use. The Aquatics Center and YMCA were not referred to the voters, and you must pay to utilize those facilities.

When was such a vote put to the people? How much will a delay cost in the future?

Ronayne isn’t sure when a decision of the City Council was referred to the voters. He also isn’t sure what to do if the library bond is turned down. That may mean going back to the drawing board.

Todd Campbell talking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Todd Campbell talking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Campbell noted he doesn’t know when a decision of the City Council was referred to the voters. But he also noted previous bonded items didn’t have opposition speaking in public forums. He then backed up a point he made earlier, that those were in the days before financial hardships in 2008. Campbell also noted some of the great renovations projects that have been done in the downtown area of Aberdeen.  I tend to agree with Campbell, there are some great things that can be done with the current library building. 

King noted the basement of City Hall was abandoned during its renovation. If the library does the same they have only half the space. She also notes the current building has other technology and ADA issues. I was under the impression that the City Hall basement was designated as unused, and not abandoned; perhaps I am wrong. But yes, renovations do mean updating for current technology and ADA standards. 

Ramey took a moment to talk about the visual aspects of the library. I have really tried to not talk about this. I’ve said before that proponents of the library are stuck on the vanity aspect of the project. That what is wanted is a large shiny object that will look beautiful and make the city proud. This came up all evening, and I tried to ignore it… but it was hard.

Kline Street Project

Duane Riedel speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Duane Riedel speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Riedel took a couple of minutes to make some points. One of those points was to talk about the Kline Street project stopping so the city can have the money to build a library. He questions why the sewer in Kline isn’t the top priority it was said to be.

Ronayne noted the Kline Street project is on hold for a year. But he says that has nothing to do with the library. Instead he says more money is being put towards other street projects and that is why the Kline Street is being put off for a year. I really don’t like Ronaynes answer here (big surprise right?). I guess my question would be, instead of spending money on a big new library, why not dedicate the money that became “available” from the YMCA bond and use it directly for projects such as Kline Street? From a pure fiscal standpoint it does appear that the new library will take money from street projects such as Kline. 

Accreditation question

King responded to recent letters to the editor that mentioned the library is not accredited. She says this is really not relevant to the current topic. Accreditation is really a matter of answering surveys. I fully agree with King. This is a topic that is irrelevant to the library bond. 

Daily Library Users

Ronayne said there are 400 daily patrons of the library in a quick round question. I really question that number, especially for the lack of vehicles in the parking lot to support it ( I live on North Kline and drive by the library often).

A few words from Architect Tom Hurlbert

Tom Hurlbert speaking at the Library Bond Town Hall. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Tom Hurlbert speaking at the Library Bond Town Hall. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Architect Tom Hurlbert is part of the firm that helped with the current plans. He notes the project was started with a fixed amount of money. The price of the project has not changed in designing this building during the project. He does say the current library and the City Hall building are architecturally different, so they can’t really be compared. He also says he doesn’t necessarily disagree with the parking issue. But he says there are plans to expand parking both in the short-term and in the long-term. Hurlbert believes putting the library downtown will actually create a greater synergy that will allow for greater use of shared parking in the future. I feel Hurlbert really underestimated the parking problems. But I do agree he has helped design a great building. I just don’t agree it is the right building for Aberdeen.

Spitzer lets Ramey have it

A local concerned citizen let Ramey have it for a couple of minutes. He made some good points I thought. One of those is that Ramey had compared the library to one in St Paul. Spitzer noted SD doesn’t want the taxes that Minnesota has.

The Basement

One last comment was allowed from the audience. This particular lady is a mother of twin eight-year olds. She said:

I think the adults are the ones making this more challenging. My kids didn’t have a problem in the basement. They don’t have a problem up on the floor in the middle.  They love checking out everything they can. They love doing everything they can.

I really love that she brought this up. I’ve heard “the children” invoked many times when talking about the current library. Personally I think it would be much better towards future Aberdeen generations to be more conservative and renovate the library. That way more money can be put towards road improvements that will leave a better infrastructure for our children to use in the future.


Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall panel. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall panel. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Riedel said all he has asked for is to let the people vote. He hopes there will be some changes in the structure that will take into account how the glass of the new building will handle the increased power prices that are forthcoming.

Campbell said he will support whatever happens after the election. But he thinks as a representative of the community he has to balance what is fair and what he feels is excessive. He is not against a new building, but this building is excessive. Campbell noted that ten years ago there was only one bond on the budget. Now there are five bonds. If there is another downturn in the economy those bonds will cause other areas of the budget to be cut; bond payments cannot be reduced. He noted that this project will impact the budget, no matter what happens.

Ronayne noted that if the bond passes the foundation will have to start its hard work. He is optimistic the foundations goal can be met. He said if the bond fails the city will have to decide what to do. The city council will work cautiously to do what the voters want. Ronayne feels there is support for the project.

Ramey is optimistic the bond will pass.

King will happily move forward with fundraising if the bond passes. If the bond doesn’t pass and then it goes back on the city to decide what to do. King then noted that a lot of money doesn’t get poured into a building when it is known the building will be replaced. She basically admitted the City hasn’t put as much maintenance into the building as should have been.

My Wrap

Overall I don’t think this Town Hall changed my mind. I am still opposed to the bond. I feel too may proponents are stuck on how nice and shiny the new building will be. As a fiscal conservative I believe a good renovation of the current building will meet the needs of the City and allow more taxpayer dollars to go towards street maintenance.

A chat with a supporter of the Aberdeen Library Bond, including my counterpoints

Current Aberdeen Library. Photo by Ken Santema 10/19/15
Current Aberdeen Library. Photo by Ken Santema 10/19/15

The election for the Aberdeen Library Bond has been set for December 15. But early voting has already started, so Aberdeen residents can cast their ballot at the County Auditors Office! About a month ago I published a post with a few of the reasons I oppose the bond for a new library.  Mostly I believe a new library is unneeded when the current facility can meet the needs of the community at a fraction of the cost of building a shiny new library. Shortly after that post I spoke with Troy McQuillen, the President of the Library Foundation. In this post I will pass on what McQuillen has to say and add some thoughts of my own. (Due to time constraints of my own it has taken me a month after speaking with McQuillen to do this post).

As I go through this history it was either provided verbally or through literature by Troy McQuillen. And yes, a lot of this post looks at history leading up to this library bond, mostly because I find it relevant in the discussion.

Warning: this is a long post!

Library Foundation

I first spoke with Troy McQuillen about the Library Foundation, mostly because I’ve heard a lot of different stories about what the Foundation is and where its money comes from. McQuillen noted the Foundation is a private entity that has no direct affiliation with the Library or the City of Aberdeen. The foundation was setup in the early 90’s because somebody bequeathed a large plot of land and a another person bequeathed a large coin collection to be used for the library. Until around a decade ago the farm land was rented out and coin collection was kept in a box at the library.

Around 2006 there was talk about improving the library. McQuillen said overall the city had done a good job of funding the library. But the Foundation wanted to do something for the library, such as buying new computers and/or books for the library. It was determined at that time that the library could not accept such a gift because there was insufficient space.

So then the Foundation began to look at ways to build a new library for Aberdeen. The land and coins were then auctioned to net over $500,000 for the Foundation to use. Over the years, investment returns have also given the Foundation money. Those sources left the Foundation over a million dollars to use for library improvements. That McQuillen said, gave the Foundation leverage to move forward with a project.

Before going on I’ll note there doesn’t seem to be anything nefarious with any of the origins of the Foundation or its money. Actually it is the type of private organization I like to see and support.

Plans for a new Library died in 2008

In 2007 the foundation asked a library planning firm to create a study. In 2008 the study was released based upon a comparison around the country and the expected population growth of Aberdeen. That study had four different proposals. The numbers were high and the city council would not support any efforts. One of the biggest problems with these proposals was the massive amount of space included in the plans.

The Bethlehem Lot bought

"Bethlehem Lot", the site purchased for the new library. Photo by Ken Santema 10/19/15
“Bethlehem Lot”, the site purchased for the new library. Photo by Ken Santema 10/19/15

In 2009 more research was done on a dozen locations for the feasibility of a new library. From that feasibility study it was determined the “Bethlehem lot” was the best location for the new library. This whole block was bought using $350,000 of the Foundations money and was matched by the city for the same amount. McQuillen did admit the Foundation had a requirement placed upon the city when deciding to pay for half of the Bethlehem Lot: the Foundation wanted ground broken on the new facility by 2016. The city agreed to this and had made it one of their priorities.

Room for a Library Bond

Three architects were then brought in to design something to be built on the newly purchased lot. None of these architects were really completing a plan the Foundation felt the City would pay for. So then another consulting company was brought in and took a different approach. Instead of making a huge plan that city could never afford, this planner asked how much could be spent. There happened to be a bond that was just about to be completed, the bond used for the YMCA. The money freed up by completing the YMCA bond was then provided as the money available for a new library bond. This is where the $8,000,000 figure originally came from!

Time for me to add my personal opinion a bit. The pushing point for spending money on a new library was the fact that another bond was paid off and was now available for a new project. Personally I don’t agree with that mentality. Part of me is glad the city isn’t taking on new bonds without waiting for old bonds to be paid off, especially for projects such as this. But, at the same time I don’t see it as fiscally responsible to keep bond payments as high as they were for the YMCA project simply because the city has been making those payments anyways. At that rate this taxpayer dollars will hijacked to pay for bonds into infinity. What is to say that after the library is paid off that the city council won’t find another place they want to spend money. Personally I live on a street (N Kline) that could use some major repair, and I know many other streets in town that are in the same, or even worse, shape. Perhaps it would be a better use of taxpayer dollars to find a more conservative means of providing a library than building a nice shiny new building simply because the financing option has become available. That would leave more money to fix streets such as mine.

Design created and funding determined

The consulting company then used a “programming chart” to determine the needs of the facility and how to fit it within eight million dollars (actually according to McQuillen it was about $8.3 million). Based up on the output from the consulting company architectural firms were then asked to design a new building. The plan that was ultimately chosen is a building which meets the needs put forth by the consulting company and fits within the financial constraints.

The Foundation felt this plan was the best and challenged the city to build the project. At this time the Foundation already had $800,000 in the bank, and felt it could easily fund-raise another $1.2 million, giving them a total of $2,000,000 to help fund the new building. That would leave $6,000,000 for the City to fund. There was a fundraising feasibility study done to show the Foundation could easily get the additional funds. The city council agreed to bond the entire amount, and the Foundation agreed to pay its portion of the project as their money came in.

Time for my opinion again. I have been involved with non-profits in the past which have been burned by feasibility studies. I think it would have made some opponents of the project less nervous if the Foundation had proved it could actually raise money. Right now, if the Foundation is unable to actually raise the matching funds it promised, it appears that the missing dollars would have to come from the taxpayers. That has made some opponents very nervous.

Outdoor space

Layout of the new library. Photo provided on the buildanewlibrary.com website. Click to make bigger.

The new library includes an outdoor space. I specifically asked McQuillen about this space because it has been touted by many library bond proponents as an important feature. The building’s design calls for 800 sq ft of outdoor space to be used.

McQuillen stated much of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programming currently done by the library requires the use of outdoor space. He noted the space provided will be covered and have outside reading areas included. This is part of a nationwide trend in libraries to get kids outside.

Here is an area I partially agree with McQuillen and other library bond proponents with. If a new facility is going to be built I do think a nice outside area would be an appropriate addition. But, I don’t see it as a reason in and of itself to build a new facility.

The Kitchen

The kitchen included in the plan was brought up by McQuillen because many opponents have asked whether it was necessary. The current library has food club classes that are apparently pretty popular. This proposed kitchen is not industrial, McQuillen made sure to point that out. Rather it is meant for basic home style cooking.

This is another area I partially agree on. If a new library is to be built I think it is valid to include. But I don’t see it as a reason to build a new library. There are already cooking classes that utilize the ARCC. I would imagine (but haven’t verified) that clubs could also utilize facilities within the ARCC.

Will the Foundation support other options

I asked McQuillen if he thought the Foundation would support other options if the library bond is shot down by the voters. Specifically I said using the ARCC, renovating the current building, or any other proposal. McQuillen didn’t see any reason the Foundation wouldn’t at least look at other options. At its core the Foundation was created to improve library services.

This is a question didn’t expect McQuillen to answer at all. His question was guarded, but at least he answered it. Right now the Foundation is pushing hard for this new library, but I do think there are opportunities to work with the Foundation on solutions going forward if the library bond is denied.

Lack of Upgrades

I asked McQuillen about the rumors that the library has purposely held off on upgrades to make it look like a new facility was necessary (I realize the library and Foundation are separate, but I wanted his take on this question). He believes that is outright false. Specifically he noted that until very recently the State of SD made contact with data providers. City libraries, such as the current Aberdeen Library, could then just pay the state and gain access to those providers. That system suddenly went away, and the library just now has been implementing a new system. He wanted to note this was being implemented now, and was not held off until a new facility was built.

Trying to be modern

McQuillen then mentioned that in my post about the library I identified myself as having a more traditional view of libraries. He believes that libraries mean something different today than it did in the past. Modern libraries are more about community togetherness and communications.

Maybe I’m too stuck in my old views of libraries. But I still don’t agree with Library Bond supporters in thinking that the library is about community. I feel libraries should be focused almost purely upon getting access to information. There are many other venues in the community available for togetherness.

Workforce Development and Quality of Life

McQuillen also sees the library as a workforce development tool. He notes that many large businesses in town have spoken in support of amenities such as a new library. They believe it will help the quality of life for employees and can be used as a workforce development tool. Projects such as the YMCA have proven popular and McQuillen believes the new library will have the same positive results.

I do agree that having a library does impact quality of life and workforce development in a town. But I would question whether having a new library will actually increase either area in a noticeable way. I believe this is an area where it is more of a matter of having a library or not.

Final Thoughts

I’ll end the post here. I did speak with McQuillen on a few more topics, and I may post about them if I find time. Even after speaking with McQuillen I just haven’t seen a reason that a new shiny library is needed.  I am still opposed to the Library Bond. I feel for a fraction of the cost the current building could be remodeled into a very functional and visually pleasing library.

PS. I would like to thank Troy McQuillen for being willing to speak with a blogger that is opposed to a project he is supporting. We bloggers are not always nice to people with opposing viewpoints and I respect him for the time he gave me.

Aberdeen Library Bond vote to happen on Dec 15

Proposed site for the Aberdeen Library. Photo by Ken Santema.
Proposed site for the Aberdeen Library. Photo by Ken Santema.

Last week I mentioned the Aberdeen Library bond will go to a vote. The City Council yesterday evening chose to have the special election on December 15, 2015. I didn’t think it would happen that soon because the County Auditor’s office had asked for 60 days to prepare… But at least the vote will be done with in less than two months and the fate of the project will be decided.

Two weeks ago I  published a post bringing attention to the petition that made this special election happen. I was supportive of the petition and generally felt there was no need for the new library to be built. I still feel that way. But in the interest of getting all viewpoints out there I will publish a post centering around an interview I did with a library proponent.

It will be interesting to see how this vote goes and how turnout will be. Special elections often get overlooked. Yet last night I was able to see a lot of social media traffic about the election being set for 2015. It should be interesting indeed…