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New Moorhead library, community center headed to November ballot

One-half percent sales tax increase would start in 2023.

Moorhead library.jpg
This is the current downtown Moorhead Public Library at 118 Fifth Street South that is 60 years old this year.
Photo courtesy of City of Moorhead
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MOORHEAD — Moorhead's City Council voted unanimously on Monday night, Jan. 24, to put a half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot to fund a new regional library and community center downtown.

Lisa Borgen, who chaired a 12-member task force on the issue after the state Legislature gave the nod last summer to allow the city to put the issue before voters, said the facility could transform the city's downtown.

"This could provide the next great experience for Moorhead," she said.

With the vote, she said they plan to hold public meetings and other input sessions with residents to see what they want in the building, with funding approved for up to $31 million.

The facility would replace the current library built in 1962 that requires about $1 million in maintenance and repair expenses in the next five years.

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Library Director Megan Krueger also told the council the library has become much more than a place to check out books. She said it's a place that can be used free of charge for people to apply for jobs and take educational courses.

She said the library has become a gathering space for the community. Statistics show a 20% increase in usage and children's programming with a new facility, Krueger said, which could also host events and improve the quality of life for the city.

Borgen said it could join the outdoor Bluestem Amphitheater, riverside walking and biking trails, Miracle Field for those with disabilities and new playgrounds in city parks in making Moorhead stronger.

Council member Shelley Dahlquist said she liked the idea of a centrally located library downtown. Borgen said they looked at five city-owned properties, as well as access to transportation, and that downtown seemed like the best location.

Council member Matt Gilbertson said visitors to the city will also help pay for the facility through the sales tax in voicing his support for the project.

Mayor Shelly Carlson, who formed the task force, said this is the first time the city has asked for a city sales tax option.

"This is a long awaited dream," she said about the facility. "I think it'll be incredible for the community and there's more to come."

With the ballot question authorized, further planning with resident input can begin, such as finalizing a location, size, what's in it and programming possibilities.

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If approved, it would put the sales tax in Moorhead at 7.875%, up from the current 7.375%, although Clay County's half-cent rate is set to expire in 2027 if an extension isn't sought. The state sales tax constitutes nearly all of the current rate, 6.875%.

The new tax could be collected for as long as 22 years to pay off the bonds. Outside funding such as grants, donations and other partnerships could help pay for the project and expand possibilities.

In Fargo and West Fargo, the sales tax rate is 7.5%, although the cities also taxes clothing.

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