MOORHEAD — The city’s first half-cent local option sales tax to fund Moorhead’s new regional library and community center inches closer towards a vote in November.
Lisa Borgen and James Hand, members of the Community Center/Regional Library Task Force, presented Vote YES56560 to Moorhead City Council on Monday, Aug. 22, and included photo renderings of the new community center and library in Moorhead.
Vote YES56560 is coordinated by the task force, which is composed of 15 members, including Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson.
The new community center and library plans feature an indoor playground area, a walking track, a coffee bar and a makerspace, among other items.
The makerspace, which in preliminary plans is estimated to be around 45-55,000 square feet, could include a podcast room, a 3-D printer and a gathering space for entrepreneurs to work.
“I really feel that this is Moorhead’s time to be bold,” Carlson said. “A new community center and library is going to create that destination and create a place for people of all ages and all diversities to be able to come and partake in experiences in our downtown, right here in Moorhead.”
The project will cost an estimated $31.59 million.
Moorhead proposes to fund the project, in part, through a half-cent local option sales tax, which will generate $1.6 million a year for a period of 22 years. The proposed sales tax will seek voter approval on Nov. 8.
Residents currently pay a sales tax of 7.375%, which includes a sales tax of 6.875% for Moorhead and a 0.5% sales tax for Clay County. In comparison, 7.5% is the current sales tax rate in Fargo and West Fargo.
“What a half cent sales tax means to an individual in Moorhead, it means it would cost them a little less than $2 a month,” Carlson said.
An estimated 30% of the project is anticipated to be paid for through sales taxes in Moorhead from out-of-town visitors.
An additional $1 million in federal funding is included in the federal budget draft for the City of Moorhead to construct a “Community Center of Entrepreneurship.” The push to get this into the budget is being spearheaded by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Tina Smith, D-Minn.
“I was thrilled to see the City of Moorhead’s Community Center for Entrepreneurship be included in the preliminary federal budget for next year. The city has consistently demonstrated its commitment to investing in economic health and maintaining a high quality of life for everyone who lives there,” Smith said in a statement.
The proposed site of the new library and community center has yet to be determined, but Carlson noted the task force is looking into locations with access to public transit, accessible parking and connection to other amenities.
The move to modernize the library aligns with the City of Moorhead’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area in the coming years. Center Avenue has already been awarded for redevelopment.
Moorhead’s current library was built in 1962 and has only received one upgrade since, an addition in 1988. The library needs extensive renovations, according to Carlson.
“It’s one of our red rated buildings in the city, it needs a completely new roof, it needs a new boiler system and building controls, that in and of itself would cost about $1.25 million,” Carlson said, adding even if the library received major upgrades, it wouldn’t be anything like the newly proposed community center library.
“The new community center library is going to be a lot more windows, a lot more green areas, the ability to have connectivity to the downtown area,” Carlson said.
The current library serves roughly 500 people a day, according to a presentation given by Carlson.
The library currently provides the community with 60,000 print materials, a gathering space, access to 38 computers, children’s programming, literacy development and a meeting room space. The library also serves as the Lake Agassiz Regional Library Headquarters.
James Hand, a task force member, said he was surprised to learn how a library offers so much more to the community than just books.
“It’s been eye opening to learn how much more a library is than books on a shelf, and how incredible of an opportunity we have here to build a library and community center, and what it will mean for Moorhead residents,” Hand said.
Planning for the project has been underway for a couple of years, according to Carlson. The task force was formed in October of 2021 after the concept received legislative approval in May of 2021.
The following January, Moorhead City Council approved the concept, which kicked off a period of citizen engagement in the planning process in April, to better inform the task force of the needs of the community.
While the project is well underway, Carlson and the rest of the task force members hope for a yes vote on the half-cent sales tax on Nov. 8.