Council approves eliminating late fees for adults at the library

Published 6:38 am Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Late fees eliminated for youth passed last year

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved eliminating late fees on adult library materials in an attempt to make access to information and resources more equitable.

The change went into effect Tuesday and essentially clears about $26,000 in late fees — about $19,500 of which is from 2017 or before, said Library Director Annice Sevett.

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The change is for late fees only, and people will still have to pay for lost or damaged items.

Sevett said 12% of cardholders with the Albert Lea library — 1,277 patrons 18 or older — have been unable to check out materials because of late fines. This will allow patrons who may have been in that scenario to return to the library.

Since the council approved eliminating youth fines in June 2022 there has been a 14% increase in circulation and the percentage of items checked out that were youth materials increased by 7%, Sevett said in a previous meeting. There have been over 300 new library cards since then, and library staff haven’t seen an impact on return rates.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a 2024 Capital Budget request to the state for funds for the Blazing Star Landing redevelopment.

The city has been working to remediate the soil at the site as it attempts to prepare the property for redevelopment and will likely be completing the remediation in phases with the assistance of DEED funding.

According to background information provided by the city, the total cost of developing the property is estimated at $9.5 million, including new street and infrastructure totaling $1.6 million, a stormwater pond estimated at $900,000 and a park area estimated at $1.1 million.

The city is seeking $1.8 million of these project elements in state bonding funds.

• Approved a development agreement with the Chapman Foundation for a house at 110 Second Ave. N.

The house, which the city owned because of tax forfeiture, will be turned into veteran housing, and will be the second house owned by the Chapman Foundation.

The organization is paying $14,000 for the property, which is less than the $30,000 spent to fix a collapsing basement wall, remove an old cistern next to the house and remove junk and other hazardous material.

The loss is less that the city would have paid on demolition.

• Approved a traditional loan with Big Dream Organics LLC from the economic development revolving loan fund for $30,000 for five years a 5.23% interest per year and a forgivable $10,000 loan to create and retain one job until Sept. 30, 2028. Failure to create and retain the job will require the loan to be paid in full.

The funds come from the state and are used to create and retain good jobs, leverage private investment and increase local tax base.

• Approved submitting a grant totaling $156,557 to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Funds would be used for a tree inventory, to pay for some emerald ash borer treatments from 2024-26 and to purchase some emerald ash borer treatment equipment.

• Accepted a grant award through the Toward Zero Deaths program for $29,600, which reimburses the city for costs of officers to participate in the various enforcement waves.

The funds are shared with Freeborn County.