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Library negotiations stalled for now

Stevens Point Mayor Andrew Halverson
Stevens Point Mayor Andrew Halverson

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- Negotiations to repair the Portage County Library’s main branch in downtown Stevens Point are at a standstill, but should restart soon. That’s according to Mayor Andrew Halverson, who says much of the early discussion so far has played out in the media instead of the conference room.  “When you’re in negotiations, they need to be respected. There’s a reason the closed session is allowed for things like this, and that has to be adhered to and respected. That has not been up to this point. That’s step number one. Step number two is going to be very open, very frank negotiations between the two sides. We obviously have our perspective, they have theirs. We need to be able to listen to each other and find a resolution that serves the interests of Portage County and the City of Stevens Point to the best of our abilities.”

Halverson has said previously that the city offered to turn over the building to the county, and that the present arrangement taxes city residents twice since they pay city and county taxes. He believes ideally, the county would take over the building, but Portage County hasn’t supported that concept. “The city constructed the building for over four million. We’ve had that and we’ve been on the hook for over twenty years because of that. The best practices out there when you’re dealing with consolidated library systems, we need to look no further than our friends in the city of Wausau who constructed the library and turned it over immediately to the county.”

Halverson believes the city and the county will soon set up a closed session meeting to negotiate the future of the library building, and the million dollar repair bill that it will have soon.  “We have to understand that that needs to be done in the appropriate environment, and obviously, airing that on WSAU, or trying to negotiate that on the front page of the paper, or ultimately on a web page is not how we will move forward with these negotiations, so I will not extrapolate nor will I presume any potential outcome until we’ve had a chance to appropriately listen to each other’s viewpoints yet again and work through those.”

The two sides are trying to set up future meetings, but Halverson says no dates are set yet.  “We’re in the process again, of course. We have had our correspondance go back to the county. We’ve indicated that we need to get through some steps, and then hopefully, we’ll be able to get to a date certain to start actual negotiations again.”

The Portage County Library isn’t the only piece of real estate where the city owns the building, but has nothing to do with its operations. Halverson says this sometimes awkward situation exists at three buildings.  “We have a convoluted situation with the County-City Building. We have a convoluted situation with the library. We have a convoluted situation with the Lincoln Center. Our proposal early on with all of these facilities is that one comprehensive plan for the disposition of the real estate would eventually move forward. The county indicated they were not interested in doing that, so we are handling these buildings on a case-by-case, piece-by-piece basis.”