Winthrop nears closing on proposed site for new town library
By Don Nelson
The Town of Winthrop is poised to close on the purchase of a parcel on White Avenue as the site for a new library, Mayor Sally Ranzau told the Town Council last week.
The .81-acre site, at the intersection of White Avenue and Norfolk Road, is just south of Little Star Montessori School. At an earlier council meeting, Ranzau was authorized to negotiate a purchase price of up to $109,000 plus closing costs.
Ranzau told the council that the town has made an earnest money payment and she hopes to close the deal by the end of this year.
Since early 2017, the local nonprofit group Friends of the Winthrop Library (FOWL) has been promoting construction of a new library to replace the overcrowded, outdated building on Highway 20. FOWL — which will build the library with privately generated funds — and the town have been researching potential properties for about a year, including some city-owned parcels. The existing library site is unsuitable for a new building because it is in a floodplain.
The identified site for a new building is in private ownership, part of a four-lot parcel bounded by White Avenue (also called Twin Lakes Road), Norfolk Road and Greenwood Road.
Construction is projected to begin in spring 2020 with completion about a year later. When the library is completed, FOWL will turn it over to the town to own and maintain. The North Central Regional Library (NCRL) system, of which the Winthrop library is a part, will provide all the furnishing and equipment for the new building.
FOWL chair Shannon Huffman Polson said the group will continue working on a needs assessment and “program study,” research that will be used to determine what kind of building the community wants. To that end, FOWL will host a community workshop on Dec. 9, from 2-4 p.m., at the Winthrop Barn to present ideas and solicit feedback. Architect Ray Johnston of Johnston Architects, a Seattle-based firm with experience designing several public libraries on the west side, will facilitate the discussion.
In other business at last week’s council meeting:
• The council renewed its agreement with the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce to operate the Visitor Information Center adjacent to Town Hall. The chamber hires staff for the center. The town agreed to reimburse the chamber $16,000 for the coming year.
• The council continued a discussion of possible safety improvements for a pedestrian crosswalk that crosses White Avenue at Norfolk Road. The crosswalk, part of the Susie Stephens recreational trail, is marked by lines on the pavement and has pedestrian warning signs from either approaching direction.
In the past, the council has discussed some kind of flashing warning lights at the intersection, but not acted on that idea. Council member Bill Kilby said his informal survey of residents in the area of the crosswalk indicated that they do not want flashing lights, nor do they prefer rumble strips because of the resulting traffic noise. Neighbors might be OK with a light that is pedestrian-activated and not continuously flashing, he said.
As for non-motorized traffic, Ranzau said that the “stop” signs for trail traffic can be lowered so they are more visible to trail users.