The site of the former Theis Auto Care service station is now owned by the City of Hastings and is a planned site for Hastings Public Library outdoor programming.
Hastings City Council members voted 8-0 at their regular meeting Tuesday to accept the transfer of property located at 302 N. Denver Ave. of the Hastings Public Library Foundation.
The funds for the purchase of the property were raised by the foundation. According to the deed, the space must be used for purposes related to the library, which is just north at 314 N. Denver Ave.
The Hastings Public Library Foundation is also raising funds for the development of the project.
“We have always had a relationship with our neighbors and we knew at some point, when the owners next door wanted to retire, that there was the possibility of acquiring this property down the road for the future use of the library,” said library director Amy Dissmeyer. in an interview on Monday afternoon. “That moment came this year, and the library and the library foundation wanted to explore how this property could potentially benefit the library and the community of Hastings and the town center as a whole in the future.”
The purchase of the property by the library foundation was finalized on May 27. Dissmeyer said the gas station had been closed since around the first of the year.
The next step will be to demolish the gas station and remove the fuel tanks.
No design planning for the future of the space has yet taken place.
Dissmeyer said there was a thorough process to secure ownership, including extensive ground testing to ensure environmental conditions were safe.
“We didn’t put any design process in place until we knew the property was secure and would be available for the foundation and could be transferred to the city for library use,” a- she declared.
Having space available for outdoor programming is important, Dissmeyer said, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want to be able to use the outdoors as an extension of what we do at the library,” she said.
The goal is to complete demolition of the existing structure by the end of the year, or before winter sets in, and then begin the design process and construction in 2023.
“I look forward to a good and healthy design phase in 2023,” Dissmeyer said. “We want a lot of community feedback. I really want to make sure it’s something that lasts for the community and lasts for downtown.
Planning includes finding the right combination of green space, parking, seating and programming space.
“There are a lot of competing things that we want to see happen with this,” Dissmeyer said. “We want to make sure we go through a really good and thorough design phase over the calendar year ahead to make sure we get the most out of it.”
She said the hope was to launch a design before October 1, 2023.
“I’m really committed to doing a good job of community input and looking at what’s the best long-term use for this space,” she said.
She sees the major library renovation that was completed in October 2017 as a model. The plan with this renovation was to make the library building flexible.
“I really think when we have an opportunity like this in the community, we have to think long-term about what’s best for it,” Dissmeyer said. “Some people will want it to be a parking lot. Some people will want everything to be grass in a park. I think we really have to get creative with finding the right combination of ways to enhance both of these opportunities for the community while also using this space for the library and improving the community as a whole.
All environmental boxes have been checked.
Marty Stange, environmental supervisor for the town of Hastings, said at Tuesday’s council meeting that the tanks did not appear to be leaking, according to an assessment.
“We saw no reason to believe there was a massive spill in there,” he said.
Councilman Matt Fong served on the library board for seven years and also served as council liaison to the library board.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the public library to continue to improve and offer new programs to members of the community,” he said.
Hastings Public Library Board Member Ross Struss said the library is delighted to have the opportunity to expand its footprint and develop green space that can be used by the library as well as by the great community of Hastings.
“It will be a wonderful addition to downtown Hastings,” he said in a press release. “That said, none of this would be possible without the Hastings Public Library Foundation and the donors and friends of the library who made this purchase a reality. We truly owe them a debt of gratitude.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the board:
- Voted 7-0-1 to approve a claim from Eldon’s Automotive Repair in the amount of $1,162.37. Councilor Joy Huffaker abstained.
- Unanimously approved a five-year extension of the keno agreement with Hastings Keno Inc.
- Unanimously approved the contract award of insurance coverage for fiscal year 2022-23 to Travelers’ Insurance Co. for property, casualty, and workers’ compensation; Starr Companies for the airport; and AXIS for cyber coverage.
- Unanimously approved participation in an inter-local agreement between the City of Hastings, Upper Big Blue Natural Resource District and Little Blue Natural Resource District to develop the water quality management plan for the watershed of Hastings Lake. Hastings’ share of the cost is $9,000.
- Unanimously approved the contract amendment for the Community Development Block Grant Project sidewalk improvement project, extending the deadline to April 30, 2023.
- Unanimously approved the updated Mission Statement and Goals for the Town of Hastings.
- Unanimously approved the acceptance of an act of the Hastings Economic Development
- Foundation for a property that works to improve stormwater drainage.
- Unanimously approved a resolution demonstrating the intent to develop a water quality management plan for the Hastings Lake watershed.
There was also a special budget meeting on Tuesday.
Actions taken on the budget include the unanimous adoption of an amended property tax request of $7,497,280. The amended amount is a reduction of $223,906 from the announced property tax claim of $7,721,186.
This will cause the tax rate to be 0.424342 per $100 of assessed valuation, a reduction from the advertised levy of 0.437015, which was already a reduction from 0.449687, where it had been for several years.
The board also unanimously approved amending Ordinance 4712 to reduce the taxes requested for the general fund from $6,056,037 to $5,860,633, a reduction of $197,404 and to reduce the taxes requested for the Museum fund from $1,192,591 to $1,166,089, a reduction of $26,502.
Also during the budget meeting, the board:
- Unanimously approved the City’s 2022-23 salary grid.
- Unanimously approved the pay addendum for Hastings Firefighters Association Local 675, IAFF, AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Agreement for the fiscal year October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023.
- Unanimously approved the pay addendum to the Fraternal Order Police Section 9 Collective Agreement for the fiscal year October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023.
- Unanimously approved Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce funding agreement for $30,000.
- Unanimously approved Hastings Economic Development Corporation funding agreement for $175,000.
- Resolution 2022-29 adopting the 2022-2023 annual dues.
- Order 4714 providing for the modification of the monthly billing of electrical service and rates including a 3% increase.
- Order 4715 providing for a change in monthly gas service billing and rates including an 8% increase.
- Ordinance 4716 amending monthly water service billing and tariffs including a 5% increase.
- Order 4717 providing for modification of monthly sewer billing and rates.
- Order 4718 establishing a rate rider for customers receiving electricity from the Hastings Community Solar Farm and setting out the terms.