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Fremont City Council to discuss library expansion, settlement with former director

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Exterior of library expansion

A rendering of the exterior of the Keene Memorial Library expansion project.

The Fremont City Council will hear an update on Keene Memorial Library’s expansion project at a special meeting Tuesday night.

The project aims to remodel the current library and add a new portion that will include new technology for a computer lab, meeting spaces and improved parking.

The $9.4 million project was pushed forward in 2018, when Fremont voters approved a $2 million bond issue. Earlier this month, library board member Linda McClain said $7 million of the $9.4 million had been raised or pledged.

The library has received funding from various community organizations, such as the Fremont Area Community Foundation, Fremont Kiwanis Club, WholeStone Farms and Fremont Rotary Club.

“What they’re doing here with the computer lab, the technology areas, the kids areas, it’s going to be an exciting thing for Fremont when it’s complete,” Mayor Joey Spellerberg said at WholeStone’s check presentation in July.

At the council’s regular meeting following the update, it will vote to approve a contract with MCL Construction for the project. MCL submitted a bid of $668,454 for the expansion.

Additionally, the council will also vote on a contract amendment with Tetrad Property Group, which covers phase two of the expansion project.

The regular meeting will also see the council voting to authorize a settlement agreement and general release for former Library Director Tina Walker, who will receive $150,000.

In August 2019, Walker filed a lawsuit with the city of Fremont, claiming she was harassed by City Administrator Brian Newton, Assistant City Administrator Shane Wimer and former Mayor Scott Getzschman.

Walker held her position until October 2020, when she announced that she was resigning, citing an “unbearable working environment” with the city.

According to a staff report, a mediation was held Nov. 12 and an agreement was reached between Walker and the city, which will be responsible for employer taxes on the lost wages portion of the settlement.

Additionally, the League Association of Risk Management will pay the remaining expenses directly and reimburse the city for the gross lost wages amount.

The council will also have its final reading to determine the renewal of the Downtown Business Improvement District.

Although BID initially asked for a new five-year extension with $66,000 annually, the board voted to ask for $48,000 for the next two years before requesting the five-year plan at its meeting on Nov. 16.

The plan’s first and second readings were approved by the council, but was continued on Nov. 9 after councilmembers expressed concern at the legality of the language used.

With the new plan, Chairman Tom Coday said at the BID meeting that the next two years would be spent planning projects.

The council will also have second readings on items splitting the roles of city administrator and utilities general manager with Newton set to retire in January 2022.

The items’ first readings were all unanimously approved by the council at a special meeting on Nov. 16.

In other news, second readings will also be held for Technology Park lot sales to Awesome Koncrete and Selectel Wireless.

The special meeting will start at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Fremont Municipal Building at 400 E. Military Ave. The council’s regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m.

Firefighter and paramedic Blake Wagner of the Fremont Fire Department dons firefighter gear while Jason Shreck, firefighter paramedic, explains the procedure that occurs when firefighters put on their gear. Keene Memorial Library hosted its Storytime on Friday at the fire station.

Mayor Joey Spellerberg, Keene Memorial Library Director Laura England-Biggs and WholeStone Farms CEO Scott Webb talk about WholeStone's donation and the library's expansion.

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