Friday, April 10, 2009
Gleason Library project prepares for Town Meeting
The Gleason Library Building Restoration Committee (BRIC) met on Tuesday, April 7, to discuss how best to communicate to voters at Town Meeting on May 4 the need for action before further damage is done to the 114-year-old building, now subject to water leaks, mold and general deterioration. An Article for the restoration of the library, including roofing, façade, windows, and foundation will appear on the Warrant for Town Meeting. The Article will recommend using $775,000 of the town’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds set aside for historic restoration. The restoration project will be the subject of a public forum at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 16 (see press release)
Funding not what expected
Library Trustee Priscilla Stevens reported that the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) had approved $775,000 of the $800,000 requested for the restoration, leaving the project potentially short $25,000. In addition, State Representative Cory Atkins has told the town that “shovel-ready” stimulus funding for the library was unlikely. The $800,000 request to the CPC had been based on the architect’s cost estimate of $730,000 with a 10% contingency. That contingency had been considered conservative as the cost of the roof, expected to be as much as $350,000, cannot be assessed until work begins. “The contingency will get eaten up,” said Stevens, noting that the full extent of damage will be better understood once the roof is removed. BRIC member Al Innamorati noted the stone foundation could be another source of overruns.
On the other hand, the architects have raised the possibility that some roofing slates could be saved, reducing costs as much as $30,000. Slates usually have a life span of about 100 years, but BRIC member Bob Hinton noted a roofer had declared the library slates above average. BRIC member Neal Emmer suggested including both new and replacement options in the bidding documents so the better option can be pursued.
Emmer later said the funding shortfall might not be a problem. “In today’s economy, numbers are coming in real well.” Carlisle Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett noted, however, that if the bids are too high, the committee will need to seek additional funding sources. To reduce the bid number, Stevens suggested private or trustee funds might be used for the windows, which could be considered enhancements since they are very specialized. Emmer said the architects might suggest some cost-cutting alternatives that could be added to the bid document and enacted if funding were a problem, and this alternative was supported by the group.
Specialized work and materials
Stevens noted that Library Director Angela Mollet and she were on the roof while repairs were made recently and “learned a lot about how to build a slate roof.” The roofer can tell by pinging with a hammer if a slate is usable or dead, and many replacement slates had to be custom cut and fitted. The roofer was a specialist who had done slate roofs for historic townhouses and churches in Boston. Mollet noted the appearance of the new slates is indistinguishable from the old, and also observed that the old roofing felt was clearly useless and “blowing in the wind.”
The cost of the proposed renovations to the historic building may appear high, but are justified, said BRIC member Sally Swift. The work will conform to Department of the Interior preservation standards requiring specialized materials and craftsmanship.
But Barnett noted, “A number of people in town are going through a really hard time” and may question the need to go forward now. She cautioned that many townspeople “don’t understand the CPA and don’t realize we’re not competing with the school” for tax money. Hinton said the emphasis should be on saving money. “Building maintenance is something the town has been weak on,” he added, and the condition of the roof has been known for some time. Stevens said a need was recognized when the library project was completed ten years ago, but the budget did not allow the committee to address it.
Public forum planned
Discussion turned to communications vehicles, with Swift suggesting a forum be planned where the architects could present their recommendations to the public ahead of Town Meeting. “Architects don’t play well at Town Meeting,” she said. “People want to hear from the committee.” The forum may be recorded and broadcast on CCTV. Elizabeth Barnett endorsed having the architect at Town Meeting as well to answer questions, “We don’t want a question that’s a show-stopper” because the relevant expertise is unavailable. Swift suggested a short primer on CPA funding should be included at the forum and at Town Meeting.
Mollet wondered if anyone would show up to a forum, noting “I haven’t had as many questions as I would have thought” about the project. Barnett said that an earlier forum on town services attracted 30 people, but reached many more on CCTV. Said Swift, “It’s better to have it, even if not so well attended.” It was agreed that Mollet would contact the architect and schedule a date. (See page 20)
Other communication options were considered. It was decided a mailing was unnecessary, but a flyer/handout should be made available at the library and at Town Meeting. The library email list and library and community websites will also be targeted with summary information. The architect will be asked to design the handout with input from the CPC.
Bidding process, presentation reviewed
Further discussion concerned whether a project manager is needed, with the committee agreeing that the oversight of architect Drayton Fair eliminates the need for a separate manager. Another concern was whether to bid the entire job or break it into phases. BRIC member Bob Koning believed a better price would be had by bidding smaller jobs directly, but Emmer liked the idea of a general contractor “responsible for the whole project coming together.” Barnett will check with public entities that have managed similar projects to see which approach they recommend.
The committee spent the remainder of the meeting reviewing the presentation for Town Meeting. After the discussion was complete, Larissa Shyjan, who is running for Library Trustee and was auditing the meeting, gave her perspectives as an outsider. She believed the following points were salient: CPA money would be used; this is not just cosmetic – the building is deteriorating; much of the building is original and for 114 years no similar renovation has been done; it is an historic property; and construction costs are low now.
Shyjan said she was convinced by the photos in the presentation, which showed basement mold, wall stains, and mortar cracks. “I visit the library, and just never noticed,” she added.
Swift concluded, “This is a complex and interrelated problem. We can’t just do one part.” Hinton added, “For years this building has suffered from deferred maintenance. We don’t want to continue to make the same mistake.” ∆
© 2009 The