Good news

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

The Lake Agassiz Regional Library had good news for Moorhead readers at Monday night’s city council meeting, along with patrons throughout the seven-county area it serves: Starting in June, the bookmobile will be back.

And city manager Chris Volkers had, in turn, good news for LARL director Liz Lynch at the end of her presentation. She revealed that Metropolitan Area Transit and the city will be able to donate a soon-to-be-replaced backup paratransit bus to the library, putting wheels under the dream of bringing the fondly remembered bookmobile back to life.

The Library’s bookmobile tradition goes back 70 years in Moorhead and the surrounding areas. But budget constraints forced the service to be discontinued 15 years ago. Now, Lynch said, plans are afoot to retrofit a vehicle as The Book Truck. “It will be like a food truck,” she told the council, “only with a menu of services instead of food.” Those services include delivery of books and DVDs, along with Wi-Fi, instruction in how to use mobile devices and download e-books, story times and other staples of bricks-and-mortar libraries.

“This is a pilot project,” Lynch said. “It isn’t going to be the traditional bookmobile.” She likened it to West Fargo’s Little Red Reading Bus. It will make its initial rounds in June, July and August, visiting parks along with Moorhead’s summer feeding program, assisted-living centers, daycares and festivals in Moorhead and Dilworth, as well as other towns and events in LARL’s service area. “This summer is a test to find out where our people want to be,” she explained.

The LARL director said fund-raising is already underway to generate the $40,000 needed to fit up the bus. That goal may change, she added, after Volkers’ announcement about the retired but still-roadworthy paratransit vehicle. The library system is looking not only for individual and business contributions but also for major sponsors: “We’d be happy to paint sponsors’ names across the bus.”

Along with The Book Truck, she announced that other conveniences are in the works, including a book return in Hornbacher’s at Azool and other locations still under discussion.

Tax exemption approved

The council approved a 15-year Renaissance Zone tax exemption for a new mixed-use building planned for the corner of First Avenue and 16th Street North. Developed by the Epic Companies, the $8.7 million five-story building includes main-floor retail spaces plus four floors with 33 apartments. Brian Kounovsky, who brought the plan to the council, said rents will range from about $700 for a one-bedroom to $1,300 for two-bedroom, two-story quarters.

Construction will begin on the Vanné Building – the name means “water” in Norwegian – this spring, with completion expected by Summer 2021. It is located on the next block east of Junkyard Brewing. The developers plan a large public area to the west between the two that will be available for concerts, food trucks, events, vendors and games. “It’s the right kind of in-fill,” development consultant Derrick LaPoint said. “The property has held nothing but an empty graveled lot for years. To see a building rise there is great for the First Avenue corridor and for downtown.”

The tax exemption approved Monday amounts to 100 percent for the first five years, 75 percent for the next five and 50 percent during the final five years of its duration. The land itself remains fully taxable.

Integrated data system okayed

City departments today use a variety of software, some outdated, that doesn’t work together with other applications. Finance director Karla McCall told the council that years of deliberation and exhaustive research led to her request this week that the city approve replacing the patchwork of digital tools with an integrated system developed and to be installed by Bellefeuill, Szur and Associates. Located near Lansing, Michigan, the firm specializes in serving municipalities, focusing on Midwestern towns.

McCall said the cost of conversion to BS&A’s ERP (enterprise resource planning) software is about $559,000, including the four modules to be purchased initially, data conversion and set-up. When complete, the new system will allow city departments to “talk” to each other and city records to be accessible in a single system – eliminating the paper-and-pencil information-sharing now required to cross many departmental and functional divides. After asking about cyber security – aided by keeping the system itself inaccessible to outside intruders – the council voted unanimously to approve the contract.

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