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House bill earmarks funds for library

Partial funding for renovations to the Perham Area Public Library has been included on the Minnesota House of Representative’s bonding bill, introduced earlier this month.

The House has proposed an appropriation of $257,000 toward the renovation project, which would cover about half the total estimated cost of the work. Remaining funds would come from the city of Perham.

Before the funding could become a reality, it would still need to be included on the Senate’s bonding bill, which has not yet been released, and then signed off on by Gov. Mark Dayton. But the House’s show of support for the project has city leaders feeling cautiously optimistic.

“The earmark is a huge step in our favor,” said City Manager Kelcey Klemm in a telephone interview Monday.

“We’re all happy with the outcome on the House side.”

Klemm, along with Library Director Susan Heusser-Ladwig, traveled to St. Paul on March 11 to testify in front of the House Capital Investment Committee. They talked to committee members about the library’s mold issue, and presented their case for some state funding to help correct the problem.

It was revealed in November that water has been leaking through the library’s stone masonry exterior for years, leading to what is now floor-to-ceiling mold growth and wood degradation behind the insulation. Fixing it will cost an estimated $500,000 – a large sum for a small city like Perham to come up with on its own.

If funding for the library ends up being supported by the Senate and Gov. Dayton, along with the House, then Perham would be looking at a 2015 construction timeline.

“While we were hoping to start work on it this year, this whole funding process has delayed it by at least another 12 months,” said Heusser-Ladwig.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual at the library, aside from the periodic air quality tests that are being conducted. So far, the tests have revealed no health risks.

“They’ve all shown that the air quality inside the building is fine,” said Heusser-Ladwig. “The engineers have said as long as we keep the integrity of the inner walls, there shouldn’t be a problem, but we’re checking periodically just to make sure.”

City leaders are also working behind-the-scenes to try and garner Senate support for the funding. Klemm said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, who represents the Perham area, is on the Capital Investment Committee, “and he’s supportive of it, so that certainly helps.”

The Senate is not expected to release its bonding bill until after the Legislature returns from Easter break on April 22.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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