Councilman Jeff Scharfenkamp
Councilman Jeff Scharfenkamp
December 10, 2013

Carroll City Councilman Jeff Scharfenkamp Monday night unleashed a torrent of criticism at R.W. Collison, the only named member of a political group challenging the space-needs assessment for the public library and city-directed development of improved services for the lending facility.

"I shouldn't probably let one person get under my skin so much, but it's just not right," Scharfenkamp said during a regular Carroll City Council session. "It does affect people's outlook, and it's not right. It's sad. One individual who has been very successful in life, how he wants to be so counter-productive to the process."

Specifically, Scharfenkamp, an at-large member of the council, cited an advertisement from Taxpayers for a Realistic Library Expansion Plan which says city officials should "learn from the library disaster."

The advertisement, published Dec. 4 and listing Collison as the secretary of the organization, prescribed sizes and costs for expanded library services and demanded that city officials identify a cost projection for the library, one palatable to voters, and then work back from the number.

Reached this morning, Collison said his advertisement "speaks for itself."

He said comments like Scharfenkamp's don't foster the cooperative environment required for good work on the library.

"I just consider the source," Collison said. "If I can't say something good about him, I'm not going to say anything."

Council members spent $26,000 hiring a consultant who will tell the city what it needs for a library to serve Carroll-area residents with no expected recommendation on cost or location. Elected officials then will determine if they want to ask taxpayers to pay for the library the study says Carroll needs - or put forward a scaled-back library plan to lower costs.

Himmel & Wilson, the city's Wisconsin-based library consultant, has been involved with more than 350 library developments in 43 states since 1987.

At the council's direction, Himmel & Wilson is conducting a series of focus groups to determine public attitudes regarding library improvement. Additionally, 2,000 City of Carroll residents will receive a mailed survey with questions about library service. Many residents already have those surveys in hand.

At a recent council meeting, Bill Wilson, a partner in Himmel & Wilson, said his firm likely will recommend at least doubling the size of the current facility.

Such a building would fall about in the middle range of total building square feet in comparison to other cities of similar population in Iowa.

Wilson, whose final report to the city is expected in February, said his early reviews of existing uses and future projections lead him toward a recommendation of a library between 20,000 and 25,000 square feet. The current library is 10,400 square feet.

Wilson's plans take into account informed speculation about likely library use for the next 20 years - with the expectation that a new or improved library will serve the city without major modifications for at least 40 years.

Collison's advertisement suggests going with a library that is 18,400 square feet or 17,500 square feet.

Scharfenkamp, acknowledging he was referring to Collison, said these figures represent "one individual person's largely opinions, unsubstantiated and rumor and innuendo."

"I wish he would explain who his group is," Scharfenkamp said. "Why can't we ask him questions? I wish he would come to a meeting so I could ask him questions. What's his basis for facts? We're called out left and right every day. To read the newspaper article (ad), we've already made the decision about this library. That's ridiculous."

Collison declined to identify other members of Taxpayers for a Realistic Library Expansion Plan. Because the organization is not advocating for a political candidate or public referendum it isn't subject to certain public-disclosure requirements.

Scharfenkamp urged Carroll residents to ignore the advertisements from Collison's group.

"This individual wants to represent that he knows everything and has divine insight into this issue," Scharfenkamp said. "He does not. I put it a little more bluntly because I can afford to because I'm not worried about offending anyone."

Scharfenkamp, a two-term councilman, did not seek re-election in November. He will be succeeded in the at-large position at the end of the month by Councilman-elect Jerry Fleshner.

Carroll voters in August 2011 overwhelming turned down a financing referendum for a planned new 32,000-square-foot, $7.4 million library at the former Heider Manufacturing property south of the Union Pacific Railroad lines and west of Main Street, effectively sending back to elected officials and library volunteers a decision on whether to build a new public lending facility, add onto the current one or do nothing at all.

The referendum that would have allowed the city to issue up to $6 million in general-obligation bonds failed with 22 percent voting to approve and 78 percent casting ballots against the public measure. The referendum required a super-majority of 60 percent for passage.