2017-05-04 / Front Page

LIBRARY RENOVATION

Projected cost may top $4.3M
BY TIM RIEL

While the town councilors are grappling with ways to trim the fat from a proposed $2 million clubhouse, library officials are receiving a crash course in the soaring rates of municipal construction.

The library’s building committee learned Tuesday afternoon its plan to expand the library is estimated to cost $4.3 million. Once additional expenses, such as accounting, engineering and legal fees are added, the board expects the number to hover between $4.5 million to $4.7 million. Upon learning the sticker shock, architect Mohamad Farzan was tasked with determining a more concrete estimate so the committee could report that figure to the library board of trustees at its May 9 meeting.

“Because the price is so high, we might want to have some soul searching,” Farzan said.

The $4.3 million proposal includes a 4,000-square-foot addition with an unfinished basement. That wing, which would house the new children’s area, would be connected to the building’s auditorium at the northwest corner. The board also has considered a retractable wall between the rooms to benefit from shared space.

According to the plan, the 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 centralize staffing. The Narragansett relics housed in the museum would be returned to the tribe.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer, who sits on the board, said the members should consider downsizing the scope before presenting the price to fundraisers.

“There’s an awful lot of unknowns here,” she said.

Committee chairman Paul Housberg, however, disagreed. Because the fundraising consultants were waiting for an estimate, he couldn’t be sure what number was out of reach.

“I’m objecting because I don’t know what to base it on,” he said. “Maybe we can raise it.”

Mary Lou Sanborn, who chairs the trustees and sits on the building committee, said the number would be lowered once grants were factored into the cost. She indicated a possible $500,000 grant from the Champlin Foundations to supplement reimbursements from the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services. Bryer, however, cautioned the state sometimes provides less than 50 percent of the cost. “OLIS just doesn’t give carte blanche,” she said.

Board member Bob Flath recommended approving a budget and then reducing the scope. “We have to come up with a number,” he said. “Then start whacking things down to get to that number.”

Farzan also suggested downsizing. “I don’t want to dismiss the exercise we went through to find the needs,” he said. “But the reality is, sometime we can’t have everything we need.”

“We have to take the square footage down or take the quality down,” Flath said. “I don’t think anyone wants to take the quality down.”

“I agree with that comment,” Farzan said. “We don’t want long-term maintenance headaches.”

“You always get what you pay for,” added Sanborn.

Housberg reiterated that he wanted to present the quote to the fundraisers before slashing features.

“If we reduce the scope, I just want to be careful,” he said. “I don’t want to back to a design that doesn’t address our needs. There is nothing to be gained form building something that doesn’t’ meet the needs.”

The board agreed to fine-tune the number by finalizing the additional costs and potential grant amounts before downsizing. Sanborn agreed.

“That leaves you a net,” she said. “At least we’ll have a ballpark number.”

Board member Duncan Pendlebury, an architect, said those extra costs can mount up.

“Nickels and dimes add up, and before you turn your head, it’s another $400,000,” he said.

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