SOUTHINGTON — Library planning officials want a new library building for nearly $17 million, a cost higher than the Town Council chairwoman said she’ll consider.
Joanne Kelleher, chairwoman of the library planning committee and a library board member, said her job to recommend a building that will meet community needs.
Town Council Chairwoman Victoria Triano said the library board has to stick to a plan that won’t cost more than $13.9 million, a figure listed in the capital budget. According to Kelleher, that’s not enough to either renovate and expand the existing library or build a new one that’s adequate.
“A building at $13.9 million would not meet the long-term needs. It would barely meet the needs the day it opened,” she said.
Cutting cost meant cutting size. Under the plan recommended by the library planning committee, a new building would be constructed on the south portion of the property and the old building demolished. It wouldd cost $16.9 million and total 31,200 square feet according to Kelleher.
A similarly placed new building at $13.9 million would total 25,500. Renovating the old building and expanding it at a cost of $13.9 million would yield 27,750 square feet.
Library board vote
Kevin Curtiss, chairman of the library board, was present by phone during the planning committee vote last week. He’s not on the planning committee but did hear the discussion which included other library board members.
“We obviously want to put forward a proposal that meets the community’s needs and is something that will serve our community in the future. But we have been in contact with the Town Council. They’ve been clear about their number and what they want to spend,” Curtiss said.
He’s planned a board meeting for Thursday at 6 p.m. at the municipal center, 200 N. Main St.
“We’ll take the planning committee’s recommendation into consideration,” he said.
After the board vote, library officials will present their plan to the Town Council in executive session. There’ll be a public presentation after that.
Library officials were surprised at the cost estimates for building a new library or renovating the existing building which initially came in at nearly $20 million. By scaling the buildings back, the planning committee arrived at the $17 million figure.
Walter Grover, a library board member, said he doesn’t support a building any smaller than the one proposed last week.
“I cannot support a $13.9 million project as the building would be inadequate from day one,” he said. “The size of our collection would be smaller, we wouldn’t be able to provide the services a town the size of ours would require.”
Part of the reason for a new building is to bring it into compliance with ADA requirements. The aisles in the existing building are too narrow for wheelchairs and while a new building would be larger, there’d be less collection space due to wider aisles.
Further cutting the $17 million plan would mean less tutoring space, less quiet reading space and less teen space, according to Grover.
Kelleher and Grover weren’t interested in renovating and adding to the existing library. They cited potential environmental problems with the current building which could increase renovation cost.
“Because we had to squeeze the program in the existing space, the flow of the design at add-renovate wasn’t as nice,” Kelleher said.