Board looks for library site

Now that the merger issues for the county and city libraries have been worked out, the James River Valley Library System Board is focusing on a site for a new building to house the two.

John M. Steiner / The Sun The Innovis Clinic is being considered a possible site to house the county and city libraries, according to the James River Valley Library System Board.

Now that the merger issues for the county and city libraries have been worked out, the James River Valley Library System Board is focusing on a site for a new building to house the two.

Voters approved merging the Alfred Dickey Public Library and the Stutsman County Library in the general election of November 2008. Presently the two libraries are housed in separate buildings, with the bookmobile located at the county library site.

Library director Daphne Drewello said business is good at both sites. That increasing traffic is another indication of the need for a new facility, she said. The city library started expanding beyond its building years ago and its board began the push for a new facility.

"Now we're outgrowing two library buildings," Drewello said.

With the library merger, a facility that could also house the county's bookmobile plus its library materials was added to the mix. At this point, Drewello said 27,000 square feet of space on one floor is needed for a new library and its many programs.


After looking at more than 20 potential sites, the merged library board settled on the Eagles site and the Innovis Clinic site as the most likely. But, board president Dale Marks said, the Eagles site is landlocked and lacks sufficient space.

"We would need to use the parking lot or the lot where the bar is," Marks said.

Project Manager Daren Peterka, of Interstate Engineering, said the existing Eagles building is 18,000 square feet. It would be razed but it covers its existing lot. The city owns the parking lot to the south and has an agreement with the Post House for some tenant parking spots. If a new library facility took part of the parking lot, it would leave room for too few parking spots. Plus there's another problem.

"The new facility would still need to be on two levels, rather than one," Peterka said. "That would mean the library would have to add a couple of staff members."

Adding square footage to the north is also not possible.

"The bar business on the corner is successful and not very interested in selling," Peterka said.

With the roadblocks thrown up around the Eagles site, exploration of the Innovis Clinic site looked more attractive. Although the building is only 16,000 square feet, the entire lot is much larger, Peterka said. After the building and house were demolished, a 27,000 square-foot building on one level could be constructed on the lot. There would even be room for some off-street parking. The house to the east of the clinic is owned by Innovis so it would be included in the purchase price. Beyond that, Peterka said, a new building would probably need 10 to 15 feet more space to the north. Plus, there are also some empty spaces on the lot.

"According to the engineers and architects, there's more than enough space," Drewello said.


An L-shaped building that faces both Third Street and Fourth Avenue Southeast is Peterka's idea for the site. However, he said, he's an engineer, not an architect, and discussions with Innovis haven't yet reached the stage of concept design.

Marks said the board first inquired about whether Innovis was interested in selling. It was.

"We offered them a dollar at first," he said, laughing at the memory of the silence that greeted that offer.

Since then the negotiation has gotten a little more serious.

"They've knocked off a lot from the appraised value," Marks said. "They're very receptive but nothing's been agreed on."

A lot depends on whether and how much asbestos there is in the building. Peterka said Innovis had an environmental assessment done in 2007.

"It indicated a building of that age probably has asbestos issues," he said.

Once the asbestos issue has been determined, negotiations on the price will continue.


From the beginning the library board and Drewello have wanted to stay in the downtown area. At the Innovis site, the library remains within easy walking distance from the middle school and St. John's Academy. Young children and middle school students make up the majority of the library's clientele.

"The Innovis site is not quite as busy as the Eagles site and there's more off- and on-street parking," Peterka said. "We've looked at a variety of sites and in my opinion it's the most attractive."

The library board has nothing concrete to present to residents now, Marks said.

"Once we have a package put together, we'll let the public know what's going on," he said.

Drewello added the package would include drawings of the potential building.

Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at

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