2017-03-30 / News

Library trustees hire estimator

Board hopes to have renovation cost soon, start its fundraising campaign
BY ROBERT BERCZUK

The Jamestown library board of trustees hopes to know next month just how much its planned expansion will cost.

The board has decided to postpone the project to focus on fundraising, but still is unsure what its target number will be. To help determine that, the board hired a cost estimator and hopes to have a preliminary number next month.

“It allows us to have a number that we can be confident about for the proposed renovation,” said Paul Housberg, a trustee and head of the library’s building committee. “So, if we have to cut, it allows us to see what elements are disproportionately costly.”

The board also plans to revise the project’s timeline at its April meeting, but isn’t committing to when it might bring the issue back to the town councilors.

“There’s just so many variables involved that we just don’t know at this point,” said Mary Lou Sanborn, president of the board of trustees. “We don’t want to move forward until we have things in concrete.”

The current version of the plan includes a 4,000-square-foot addition with an unfinished basement. That planned wing would be on the northwest corner connected to the building’s auditorium.

The proposal relies on shared space and overlapping rooms to help meet the library’s programming needs. One example is combining part of the proposed new children’s area with the large meeting room so it could be used during story hours.

According to the plan, the current children’s area in the southern part of the building would become part of the adult section. The middle of the building, including the Sydney Wright Museum, would be enlarged to become a centralized staff area. The Narragansett relics housed in the museum would be returned to the tribe.

The board is using an outside group to provide advice and help it prioritize its fundraising efforts, Sanborn said.

“As a board, we decided to pull in some other pieces at this point to give the town council and public a better idea of the cost,” she said.

The trustees originally hoped the town would bond the amount needed for the project with a goal of paying the town back through grants and private donations. Sanborn told the town council Dec. 19 of the board’s intention to have a referendum on the ballot for this June’s financial town meeting.

The decision to change course and focus on raising money for the project occurred at the start of this year. By focusing on raising money first, board members said it improves the chances of receiving approval from voters and the council.

“I’m not in favor of rushing anything,” Housberg said. “We need to do our homework. We need to take our time and do it properly.”

The last time the library was renovated was almost a quartercentury ago, and library officials said changes are needed to meet current and future needs of patrons.

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