Friday, April 2, 1999
Wednesday Town Meeting to Vote on Library Project
On Monday, members of the Gleason Library Trustees and building committee were pleased to announce that the proposed renovation and expansion plan for the town's library will cost $2,868,455, a figure close to their most recent estimates. Clearly relieved at the result of recently received bids, building committee chair Sally Swift asked for support and in response, received unanimous votes of approval from the finance committee and board of selectmen. Now, if library officials can garner a two-thirds vote of approval to bond $1,489,067 at the Special Town Meeting on Wednesday, April 7 and receive a majority vote at the special town election on April 13, the bulldozers can roll into action. The library plan is the only article on the Warrant.
At the March 29 meeting, Swift once again outlined the plan to renovate the 4,500 square feet of the 1895 Gleason Building, demolish the 3,524 square-foot 1973 addition and construct a 7,900 square-foot two-story addition. The net square footage for the library program will increase from 4,742 to 8,941 in the new facility. The parking area will be graded to correct drainage problems and the number of parking spaces will increase to a total of 33. Trustees have stated that the expansion is needed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, increase seating and staff work space, and to accommodate new technology.
In order to fund the $2,868,455 project, the library trustees plan to use the $919,388 award from the state and $360,000 in gifts which they have on hand. Then, in order to keep the bonding costs at $1,489,067, the trustees have agreed to raise an additional $100,000 to fund the balance. In speaking with town officials on how to resolve the $100,000 discrepancy, it was decided that the line item for furniture, fixtures and computers would be reduced from $290,500 to $190,500. Furniture could be added as funds are raised, said Swift. This means that Town Meeting will be asked to appropriate $2,768,455 for the project and, with the state grants and gifts in hand applied, to bond $1,489,067. Approval of the ballot question on April 13 is necessary to give town officials the authority to exempt from the limits imposed by Proposition 2-1/2 the amount required to bond the library renovation.
In response to a question from selectman Doug Stevenson about the impact on taxes, Swift explained that town treasurer Nancy Koerner indicated that residents would begin to pay for the project in 2001. The estimated impact would range from 25 cents on $1,000 in assessed real estate value decreasing to 12 cents on $1,000 over the 19-year bonding period. This translates into a range of $48 to $100 for a $400,000 house.
The building committee had received a good reponse from their request for proposals, receiving 65 bids from subcontractors and eight bids from general contractors within days of the meeting. Swift indicated that the group had been very busy sorting out and analyzing the responses. Thus far, they had received good references on the low bid for the general contractor. However, the low electrical and elevator bids had to be thrown out so those items will be re-bid. In response to a question, Swift said she didn't anticipate that those costs would increase on the next round and they should be lower.
School Street resident Janice Hensleigh questioned why the library had a higher cost and less square footage than the Town Hall. Building committee member Ed Sonn, who also served on the Town Hall building committee, pointed out that was two years ago and costs have gone up. Swift added that libraries are specialized and generally more expensive to construct. Hensleigh then referred to some cost-cutting on the Town Hall that may not have been wise and asked if the committee was getting everything it wanted. Swift responded that the state grant required planning for 20 years and beyond and they couldn't cut back on that . "We are getting what we wantdurability, flexibility and efficiency....Everything can be moved and we can expand off the East end."
This prompted Howard Hensleigh, who had just moderated the town caucus, to ask if they were still interested in the White property next door to the library. Swift hesitantly replied affirmatively and said they planned to talk to the selectmen the next night about the property.
Hensleigh also asked if, since the school also has a library, there could be more coordination and potential cost- savings. Library director Ellen Rauch explained that she believed that the school librarian had been contacted during the planning stages. While there's no librarian at the school now, she said, there is communication about collection needs and support. Nancy Pierce added that having watched the library budget as a former FinCom reporter and member, "the library has been understaffed for years. The chances of cutting staff is unlikely....There's no fat there."
Speaking of staff, in response to a question from Stevenson about the anticipated demand with the new building, Swift replied that there are plans for another person, a reference librarian. However, the building was designed so it could be staffed by a small number. As the program grows, there may be an increased need, she said. Along the same vein, FinCom member Linda Zinke noted that operating costs will grow with the new facility and she asked trustees to "give us advance warning."
Stevenson also asked how the proposed construction costs per square foot compared with other library projects. In response, Swift said,"we're a little more expensive because we don't have the economies of scale." Sonn added that both the Acton and Chelmsford libraries were also just under $200 per square foot.
Swift answered a question from selectman Michael Fitzgerald about the "creep" in costs over the last four years, by saying there had been about a $400,000 increase. Other surrounding towns are experiencing the same problem.
In voicing support for the project, chair of the selectmen Vivian Chaput said with some relief, "I'm glad we're reasonably within the financial projections."
FinCom member Phil Conti agreed and was pleased that funding was coming from mulitple sources. "You are providing services for everyone in town, from the very young to the senior citizens. Even though it may look expensive, it's a good value."
Selectman voted 3-0 in favor with Chaput, Fitzgerald and Stevenson present. The FinCom voted 4-0 in favor with Zinke, Conti, Tony Allison and Simon Platt present.
Town officials are hopeful that residents will appear at the Special Town Meeting at 7 p.m. in the Corey Auditorium to voice their opinions and fulfill the 150-voter quorum.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito