2018-01-04 / Front Page

Library board quashes $5M plan to expand

Study: Potential donors will not pledge enough

Plans to expand the library on North Road have come to a screeching halt after trustees learned their biggest potential donors were lukewarm to supporting the $5 million design.

“Most of them felt that the library was meeting their needs,” said Mary Lou Sanborn, chairwoman of the library board of trustees.

Sanborn updated the town councilors at their meeting Monday. She said a feasibility study, which was conducted by EAC of New England, targeted 21 residents who “expressed great respect and affection for the current library and its staff.” Those respondents, however, said they were “unaware of the need for improvements beyond issues like parking and community meeting spaces.”

The amount these townspeople would donate would total $100,000, according to the study’s findings.

“The results do not support the project,” Sanborn said. “We didn’t come anywhere near the amount we thought we could generate through private donations.”

Since receiving the bad news, the library’s building committee has reconvened at the drawing board. Sanborn said the trustees are now focused on “interior-only” renovations because excavating land proved too costly. She said the committee wants to replace the roof and windows while installing an elevator. The top priority, however, is under the bookshelves.

“The key to the project would be renovating the basement,” she said.

The basement houses oil tanks and a 23-year-old HVAC system, which has been in limbo on the capital improvement plan. An engineering analyst is currently assessing that system to determine the options. Sanborn expects the study to be completed in the next few weeks.

After that, she said, the committee will start drafting another schematic design.

In the meantime, Sanborn expects to meet with representatives of the Champlin Foundation to discuss the new project. The organization has awarded $808,000 to the library since 1981. The foundation is a big supporter of libraries, donating $2.7 million in 2017 to update 23 facilities across Rhode Island.

Sanborn said the reimbursement level from the state Office of Library and Information Services was unknown.

Town Administrator Andy Nota, however, has been discussing the project with the agency. In a bit of good news for the library, the state will reimburse money for annual capital outlays, not just refund a percentage of a bond authorization. He will reach out again after the trustees vote on their scaled-down plan.

“We then could really put together a more focused plan so we won’t miss out on that 30, 40, 50 percent,” he said.

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