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Carnegie Library: Heritage chair makes plea to save building

Alan Brew asked the city to reconsider.

Brew, the chairman of the Bemidji Heritage Preservation Commission, appealed to the Bemidji City Council Monday evening to reassess the future of the Bemidji Carnegie Library.

"I guess what I'm here for tonight is to ask you to reconsider," Brew said, "or at least allow some time frame for the commission and for interested parties to see if we can put a project together to keep the library where it is."

The City Council has voted to plan for a future of Library Park without the presence of the 102-year-old building. Councilors voted 6-1 in a Sept. 12 work session "to remove the Carnegie Library building when needed and direct the park plan to proceed without the Carnegie Library."

The motion allows for both moving the building to another location and demolition. Library Park and Paul Bunyan Park will not be reconstructed until at least 2013. Councilors have stated that gives supporters some time to find a solution for the building.

Brew, addressing the council during the public comment portion of the agenda, said there are many people who support saving the Carnegie Library. A Facebook group has nearly 600 members and an online petition garnered more than 500 signatures.

The cost of renovating and upgrading the building in its current position, according to the 2009 reuse study, is around $800,000.

"We have admitted - I have admitted, the committee has admitted - the building has issues," Brew said. But to say that the building is "falling down" is not correct, he continued, adding that a state preservation officer has reported that the building is in good shape.

Councilor Jim Thompson said he believes that if supporters would raise enough money to move the building to another location, that solution would satisfy a number of people.

Except the State Historic Preservation Office, Brew responded. Moving the building would remove the Carnegie from the National Registration of Historic Places list, although the city could reapply for the list after being delisted.

Even moving the building to the north side of Library Park, an option considered in the reuse study, would have the building delisted, Brew noted.

Later in the meeting, Councilor Rita Albrecht said her visiting sister from Red Wing remarked recently that her city lost their Carnegie Library. Albrecht said she was surprised since historical preservation and the city of Red Wing seem to go hand-in-hand.

Albrecht said her sister reported that Red Wing's loss of the Carnegie Library that prompted the community to make a stand to preserve its historic buildings.