The city is moving forward with a last-minute plan to expand the Meadowridge library branch at its current location on the southwest side. The proposal drew scrutiny from city alders but was ultimately approved by the Common Council during negotiations on the 2013 budget.
"There's no question the library expansion will take place," said Mayor Paul Soglin after meeting Wednesday night with the Meadowood Neighborhood Association. "In the next few weeks, we'll be discussing how we are going to come up with funding to operate the facility long-term."
Expanding the cramped Meadowridge branch has been part of the city's master plan for more than a decade. Like several other city libraries, the Meadowridge branch does not reside in a city-owned building. Ald. Larry Palm, a member of the Madison Public Library Board, said ideally the city likes to own its own library facilities but a suitable location for a new library in the Meadowood neighborhood has not materialized.
When the opportunity arose to double the size of the branch at its current site on Raymond Road, Palm persuaded the council to explore this possibility, with the intention of negotiating a better deal with the property owner, MLG Capital.
"My preference would be to pay the rental dollar amount that we pay now for twice the space," said Palm. "I don't know if that will happen but that would be my ideal strategy."
During his meeting with the neighborhood association, Soglin said he supports a collaboration between the Meadowridge branch and the Meadowood Neighborhood Center, directly adjacent to the library. The association would like to see the two facilities share computers or even a kitchen space.
Even though the Common Council added more money to the city's library budget this year to provide for the Meadowridge branch expansion, state law requires that public library boards have the final say on how those funds are spent. On Thursday, the Madison Public Library Board officially voted to move forward with the plan.
President of the Meadowood Neighborhood Association Lisa Veldran said the southwest side is in the midst of a renaissance and the neighborhood is really jazzed that their Meadowridge branch is expanding at the library's current location.
"This is just the first step but people are really energized and excited," said Veldran.
But there is still the thorny issue of how the cash-strapped city will sustain the Meadowridge branch in the future.
"The critical issue is how we will fund it long-term," said Soglin. "We'll come up with something."