Friday, March 12, 1999
Gleason Library officials respond to tough questions on proposed plan
The Gleason Public Library Trustees will be arriving at the April 7 Special Town Meeting with $1.28 million in their pockets for the proposed renovation and expansion plan. However, taxpayers will have to fund the balance for the estimated $2.7 million project or the $919,388 grant will slip away. Although the building committee has been receiving encouraging votes from residents since 1994, the estimates for the project have since risen and the actual price tag will remain an uncertainty until bids are received on March 26. In the meantime, library officials want to educate voters about the program which they have been developing over the last several years to meet the growing demand and provide service for the next 20 years.
On March 6, the Mosquito interviewed Gleason Library building committee chair Sally Swift, trustee Rosalie Johnson, and director Ellen Rauch, to compile answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Why does the town need the new library?
There are four primary factors driving the need for an expanded library: serious overcrowding; the need to accomodate technology; Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements; and planning for the future. The overcrowding, which hampers staff operations and limits services, is driving the demand. Then in order to meet demand, the space must be ADA-compliant.
What is the plan?
The proposed project will essentially double the net square footage of the current library by renovating the three levels of the 1895 Gleason Building (4,500 square feet) and constructing a 7,900 square foot two-level structure in place of the existing square foot 1973 building (3,500 square feet). The result will be 9,000 net square feet of library space organized primarily on two full levels and supplemented by the multi-purpose third floor of the 1895 building. The total gross square footage of the project will be 12,400 square feet, compared to 8,023 square feet in the existing two buildings. The building will be fully accessible for handicapped patrons. Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act consumes a lot of space.
Designed to meet the needs of the program for 20 years and beyond, everything will expand. The number of seats will double from about 35 to 70, there will be more study carrels, the number of computer stations will increase from 8 to 23; seven for staff and the balance for public access and general use. Areas in the library will be distinct and increase in size by the following percentages: periodicals-65, adult-50, children-100, and the media (self-serve)-100.
Why are you tearing down the 1973 addition?
The 1973 addition wasn't designed to be expanded, except to the mezzanine level. That expansion was completed in 1985 and was expected to meet the town's needs for five years. The first floor stacks are the structural support for the second floor, making it impossible to move them to make the aisles wider and compliant with ADA regulations. To expand by moving out the sides of the building would require taking down the roof, and then there wouldn't be much left.
With the second floor of the Gleason Building vacated by town employees, can't that space serve the town's needs?
It has to be ADA-compliant. A major portion of the library's administrative operations have been moved from the cramped first floor space into that area. After some discussion with building inspector Bob Koning, the trustees decided not to open that room for patron use because of building code, public access and safety considerations. To try to expand library services there would be a band-aid approach. It would not be an efficient use of space and another staff person would be required. What won the grant was looking at needs 20 years out.
Does the library need to be ADA-compliant?
Yes, if there's going to be substantial renovation or expansion, spaces must be ADA-compliant.
Will there be an increased need for staff?
The new library has been designed so it can be monitored and serviced by a small number of staff. One additional full-time member will be required, preferably a reference librarian. As demand grows for children's services, more staffing may be needed.
Will there be enough parking?
While the lot can now accomodate approximately 25 cars, the new plan shows 33 designated spots. There will be a drive-through book and video drop-off which should answer some demands and the trustees are still looking at the White property for future space. Also, the path committee has said they are planning a sidewalk on the library side of Bedford Road which would improve pedestrian access.
Tell us about story hour in the new facility.
The third floor would be the site for story hours. Parents could be on the second or third floor, depending on the age of the children. Some informal story hours might happen on the second floor.
The finance committee has expressed some concern that building costs estimated at $2.2 million in 1996 have grown to an estimated $2.7 million or more. Explain.
The grant application was filed in 1995 and construction costs have risen three to six percent per year during this time period. In addition, the original estimate was based on schematic designs whereas the current estimate is based on detailed plans. Also, at the time of the original estimate, the site hadn't been engineered and solutions to drainage issues will be more costly than estimated. Lastly, the formula provided by the state wasn't complete and costs for items such as technology and bonding were not included.
Are there costs which could be delayed until the future?
Possibly the technology, but the difference is only about $30,000.
Were requests for proposals structured to allow some less expensive bid alternates?
There were no add-alternates requested in the bids because the possibilities were so small (a fence, trim, countertop materials) that the committee decided against it. Instead, some less expensive materials were used, such as asphalt rather than slate for the roof, and other items were cut, like some of the granite curbing.
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners requires that proposals provide for the needs of a town's library for 20 years and beyond. Because the grant was awarded to accomplish this specific program, it is difficult to scale back the scope of the project without the risk of losing grant monies.
What is the future timeline?
Contractors' bids are due on March 26. The Special Town Meeting will convene on April 7 where a two-thirds majority vote will be needed to bond the project. If the project passes, there will be a special town election on April 13 to ask if voters will allow taxes to be assessed in excess of the limits imposed by Proposition 2-1/2. If the project receives a majority vote of approval, library operations will move to 872 Westford Street in late April. Construction of the new building is scheduled to begin on May 12 and continue for ten months.
A bit of history
1992 - A long-range planning study was completed.
September, 1994 - Town Meeting appropriated $15,000 for acrchitects to create a schematic design.
April, 1995 - Town Meeting appropriated $53,500 for design development.
1995 - The town's first grant appplication was not approved, but the state encouraged resubmission.
April, 1996 - The grant application was resubmitted.
May, 1996 - Town Meeting appropriated $130,000 for construction drawings and bid documents, but expenditure of the funds was dependent on receipt of the state grant. September, 1996 - The grant application was approved, and the town was placed high on the waitlist for funding.
September, 1998 - Carlisle was approved to receive a grant of $919, 388.
April 20,1999 - Carlisle must accept or deny the grant.
Board approvals - Board of health approved the septic system on February 16. ConsCom issued an order of conditions on February 11. Board of appeals approved the plans on March 4. The historic commission will review the plans on March 30.
Sources of Funding
Taxes levied already $198,500
Private funding $360,000
State grant $919,388
Bonds (estimated)* $1,421,000
Total (estimate)* $2,700,000
(Most recent estimates; actual bids due March 26)
Gleason Library Trustees
Rosalie Johnson (chair)
Library Building Subcommittee
Geoffrey Freeman, alternate
Stewart Roberts, alternate
Sally Swift (chair)
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito