2018-03-22 / Front Page

Trustees slash plan to expand library

BY TIM RIEL

The library board of trustees is proposing $2 million in renovations to its building on North Road, a plan that was dwarfed by the previous $5.5 million proposal unveiled last summer.

“We’ve taken that very expensive design and pared it down to what really is essential,” said trustee Paul Housberg, chairman of the library’s building committee.

Those preliminary blueprints and price tag were presented to the town councilors at their meeting Monday night. While the trustees will need half that total through a bond referendum, Chairwoman Mary Lou Sanborn said the remainder will be financed by state grants, private donations and the Champlin Foundation. The Cranston nonprofit has historically been gracious to Rhode Island libraries, including more than $800,000 to Jamestown since 1981. Sanborn said she already has met with foundation representatives.

“They were very agreeable,” she said. “They thought this project was very conducive.”

Architect Mohamad Farzan, who has been working on the expansion since 2013, presented the two-pronged plan, which represents $1 million in maintenance costs and $1 million to expand the footprint by 1,700 square feet. The maintenance measure includes $46,000 to replace the flat roof, $30,000 for the front doors and $68,000 to upgrade the electrical system. The biggest item is $550,000 for a new HVAC system, which has reached the end of its useful life, he said. The bathrooms also have not been upgraded since the building was renovated in the early 1990s.

“When bathrooms are tired, they need to be replaced,” Farzan said.

These repairs, according to Town Administrator Andy Nota, are not negotiable. Taxpayers will have to foot this burden.

“Whether the bond is approved or not, the town will have to address these items in the new term,” he said. “They’re not program changes. They’re infrastructure improvements.”

The second half of the plan, however, which is fueled by $307,000 for additions, is reimbursable by at least 30 percent from the state Office of Library Services. According to Sanborn, the other portion is not covered through this program because the state does not reimburse communities for maintenance and repairs, only new construction.

The reimbursement, which could balloon to a maximum of 50 percent, would be subsidized by private grants and donors.

“We’re confident we can raise the money,” Sanborn said.

The expansion would include 562 additional square feet to both the children’s area and the section for young adults. These would feature bay windows. The new staff area and lounge would be 586 square feet, although that addition would serve two purposes. The new mechanical systems would be installed on that roof. Currently, Farzan said, these systems are located higher than where new roof is proposed, which makes it hard for workers to reach them.

Nota said it’s important for the councilors to vote in the near future so the project can advance to the next level.

“The application can’t move forward unless the funds are committed,” he said.

Also, it would allow the trustees to starting applying more formally for grants. Sanborn said applications are due by May. The council agreed to continue the matter during its April 2 meeting.

According to Housberg, the trustees were able to slash the project because of the process they followed. The $5.5 million plan, he said, was created using the needs assessment from their consultants.

“Budget was a secondary concern,” he said. “This allowed us to fully investigate all alternatives.”

The next phases, he said, focused more on fiscal responsibility.

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