Will Milton open up the Shaw building?
MILTON It's looking more likely that Milton City Hall could vacate the Shaw Municipal Center and pave the way for the Milton Public Library to expand inside the 21,000-square foot building.
Tuesday night, the city council unanimously approved a plan to get mechanical drawings ready for potential bids on a $2.5 million combined police station/City Hall at 710 N. Janesville St.
On the heels of that decision, the council and dozens of residents heard a presentation by Library Board President Bill Wilson on the prospect of expanding the library to fill at least two of the Shaw building's three floors—about 15,000 square feet of space—should City Hall move out.
Wilson told the city council that the library board and its backers would "work tirelessly to try to deliver" on a plan to turn the library into a centerpiece and a destination to draw people into the city for the next 50 years.
Pointing to a map of the future Highway 26 bypass, which is slated for completion in 2014, Wilson noted an orange dot that marked the Parkview Drive corridor, the city's eastside downtown which the Shaw building is near.
"We want to try to draw people to that orange dot," Wilson said.
Wilson's presentation was punctuated by supportive comments from the council, Mayor Tom Chesmore and several residents who packed the council chambers Tuesday.
It followed a relatively quick discussion of cost-cutting measures by consultant Angus-Young Associates to bring the proposed police department/City Hall project in line with the $2.5 million budget.
Monday, Angus Young told the council that it could shrink the proposed footprint of the City Hall portion of the project by about 2,500 square feet to control costs.
The council OK'd getting designs for a police department/City Hall plan that the council could approve for contractor bids as early as March 19, according to City Administrator Jerry Schuetz.
For the last three weeks, the council has been considering pulling city hall out of the Shaw building, which is located at 430 E. High St.
The 20,000 square-foot building houses the library on the first floor and City Hall on its upper level, including the city administrator and city clerk's offices. It's lower level houses city council chambers.
The idea to move city hall to the planned police station came after city officials and the council decided plans to upgrade the Shaw building as a library/City Hall would be fraught with space and logistical problems and wouldn't be a good long-term fit for either city service.
The plan significantly increases costs of renovating the former Dean medical building on Janesville Street compared to earlier plans, but it would free up more than 5,000 square feet of space in the upstairs of the Shaw Building for the library to create public spaces.
Wilson told the council that the library envisions using the second floor for youth and early childhood areas, study and family reading areas, board rooms and programming areas.
Wilson said the library also would like to create a "community front porch" on the second floor, which he explained could turn the library into a social hub for the city.
Milton's library is considered the busiest library per capita in Rock County, with more than 80,000 users last year—30,000 of whom were visitors from outlying rural townships, including the towns of Janesville and Milton.
Each of those visitors is potential revenue to fuel library operations, which Wilson said would remain the same despite the library's potential larger size and scope.
"The library receives Rock County funds based on usage from beyond city limits. If they get more people from the townships, they get more funding. Expansion of the library could be key," Wilson said.
Wilson said the library is willing to begin raising funds and pursuing library foundation grants for the cost of the expansion if it can count on the city's cooperation to get the second floor of the Shaw building cleared out.
He said the library would need partitions and the City Hall service counter moved out, along with new carpeting.
"If you can provide for us a clean, usable, empty space, we'll start with that," Wilson said. "Your big investment would be the space you're providing for us,"
Wilson told the council the library could "make some (immediate) use (of the second floor) over the next two years or year-and-a-half until we get this project built."
Later, he said the library board might return to the city for financial help for electrical and lighting upgrades at the Shaw building.
"There are some things we'd come back to the council on later. But that's not today's battle," Wilson said.