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Effort to save historic Carnegie building draws financial support

More than $30,000 has already been raised to support the Carnegie preservation effort.

Three people in a council work session last week pledged a combined $11,500 toward the cost of a study to assess the condition of the 102-year-old library. And, since then, a Facebook effort to save the Carnegie generated $20,000 more in pledges, Mike Bredon reported Monday night.

"It is not an eyesore. It is not falling apart," said Bredon during the council meeting in which councilors voted unanimously to allow supporters time to try to raise funds to preserve the historic library.

It was suggested that the effort be given a one-year deadline, but the council backed away from that as it further discussed what all must be done.

The Carnegie will be moved at least 10 feet back from Paul Bunyan Drive. This move may result in the building being de-listed from the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Register, it is possible to move a building and retain its status on the list, but all other options should be exhausted first.

"Properties listed in the National Register should be moved only when there is no feasible alternative for preservation," states the regulations. "When a property is moved, every effort should be made to re-establish its historic orientation, immediate setting and general environment."

Councilor Rita Albrecht said moving the Carnegie further back from the roadway actually allows it to reclaim some of its history since the Carnegie, when first built, had a front yard.

Even if the Carnegie is de-listed, supporters are confident that they could re-list it again.

But the nomination process could take 12-18 months, and de-listing the building would make it ineligible for state Legacy grants, said Lewis Crenshaw.

Thus, the council acknowledged that the Carnegie fundraising process may take longer than a year.

The pre-application deadline for mid-sized and larger historical and cultural Legacy grants is June 1.

"I don't think this is the year to apply for Legacy funds," said Albrecht, while advocating for slowing the process down.

Instead, Albrecht said she would like to see the city's Parks and Recreation Department seek its Legacy grants - through the outdoor heritage fund, a different source than that from which Carnegie money might be awarded - this year for the planned Lake Bemidji waterfront park improvements.

Meanwhile, a Carnegie committee would be formed to manage the fundraising process and oversee the project while periodically reporting to the council. Its first report to the council is scheduled for June 4, at which time it is expected to provide a detailed goal and timeline.