Joint venture between Marigold Library System and WID moves to first phase

By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor

The Strathmore Times

Marigold Library System’s CEO Michelle Toombs (l-r), Western District Irrigation General Manager David McAllister and Marigold Project Manager Lynne Thorimbert, have been working closely together to create a joint use headquarter facility between the two community-minded organizations. The project also proposes the creation of a park and garden space for public use.

Miriam Ostermann Photo

After one-and-a-half years of feasibility studies, financial pursuits and committee meetings, Marigold Library System and the Western Irrigation District (WID) are forging ahead with their joint-use headquarter building venture that not only benefits the two community-minded organizations, but the public at large.

The two parties entered into a joint venture to share and co-own a 40,000 sq. ft. building to be housed on WID-owned land.

With a budget of $8 million – of which $6 million is already secured – Marigold Library System expects to own 20,000 sq. ft. of the proposed facility which was identified necessary by a two-year feasibility study. WID also conducted a preliminary needs assessment and would own the other half of the facility. Both parties would have shared access to certain resources such as meeting rooms, loading docks and IT infrastructure.

The facility will be housed on six acres north of Orchard Park Rd. while eight acres of wetland located directly west of the parcel is planned to be donated to the Town of Strathmore for the development of a community garden and park space.

To gather community input on the project, CivicWorks Planning & Design, which has been enlisted to complete planning and design service for the undeveloped WID land, has scheduled an open house on Sept. 13 to showcase a draft site plan and information on the proposed land use re-designation for four project sites.

Requirements to rezone the sites from light industrial and urban reserve districts to commercial highway and public service districts are necessary for the project to come to fruition.

“Having the land use secured is obviously key so we’re hoping for public feedback; we encourage coming to the open house and expressing what they’d like to see, have an input into the project, and then obviously the formal council process,” said David McAllister, general manager with WID. “Assuming everything gets approved, we’re then looking at doing the detail design. But we can’t put the cart before the horse. We had discussions with Marigold and I think through those discussions we realized there was a significant opportunity for collaboration to benefit both the organizations and the community as a whole.”

Marigold Library System and WID said the partnership blended well since the start and is rooted in similar interests and organizational structure. Both organizations have a staff of about 30 employees and have built strong relationships with various service providers in the community. The partnership would benefit from construction savings, operating cost savings and sharing common space.

“We’re both community-minded organizations and we want to make a contribution to the community that has supported us and that we have supported for many years; in the case of WID it’s almost 75 years in existence and for us it’s 37 years,” said Michelle Toombs, CEO with Marigold Library System.

“We have built a lot of relationships and alliances in this community and nearby communities … and as I look to the future I think what’s going to be important to us 10, 20, 30 years from now (is) water and intellectual capacity. We need our residents and our upcoming generation to be able to do the technologies that will be essential in the future, and certainly Marigold contributes to that in a big way by allowing people to develop those skills and abilities.”

Marigold, which provides services to 37 public library members in 44 municipalities, currently has its headquarters in Strathmore across from Sacred Heart Academy in an old armoury building that was constructed in the 1950s. For years, the organization has been plagued with heating and cooling issues, flooding, lack of storage, water damage and deteriorating infrastructure.

The organization received a $3 million grant from Alberta Infrastructure last June, has a building reserve of $2.6 million and additional savings. Marigold also approached Wheatland County and the Town of Strathmore, which backed the organization financially with a $2 million draft loan agreement.

While both Marigold and WID have funding secured for the joint venture, the project will be on hold until rezoning is secured and the required municipal processes are completed.

“This is the first phase and we need to secure the land use and the zoning, and obviously we want to give the community a chance to see what we’re proposing for the area,” McAllister said. “We want to provide a conceptual plan of the site so we can receive community feedback, and then look at securing the zoning that we need to move forward with the project.”

Marigold Library System and WID are optimistic the project will be completed in the fall of 2020.The open house will be held on Sept. 13 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Strathmore town hall, 680 Westchester Rd.

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