Southington library bid process begins amid supply chain concern

SOUTHINGTON — The Library Building Committee has taken the first steps toward the construction of the new structure by authorizing construction manager Whiting-Turner to move forward with bids for a critical piece of electrical equipment for the building.

Despite some concerns expressed by the Town Council when building committee members presented the project plan on Monday, the building committee believes it’s best to keep the project moving forward to meet a planned opening date of late 2024.

During a meeting Wednesday, the committee unanimously approved allowing Whiting-Turner to begin the bid process for what’s known as an electrical switchgear, a master panel that distributes and controls power to the building while protecting circuits.

The switchgear is one of the most significant components of the project, with the unit costing around $112,436. Contractors and architects stressed the importance of the switchgear as the foundational step for construction. It’s estimated to take upwards of 54 weeks to receive the switchgear.

With so many other systems like the elevator, air handlers, and other electrical systems unable to be installed without the switchgear first, the completion date could be delayed depending on how long it takes to order. Whiting-Turner has reiterated that throughout the process, persistent supply chain issues cause even basic materials to take months at a time to source.

“If the solution is just to wait and go out to bid, the overall end date just has to push. That’s just the way it works,” Project Manager Tim Kostuk said.

DRA Architects also unveiled the samples they plan to use for decor in the library, settling on a painted paneling that will be predominantly off-white, with additional cream and terracotta colors for the first floor and entryways. When board members asked about the lifespan of the coating, they estimated it would last around 10 years with $30,000 needed for repainting.

They also sought to address several concerns noted by members of the Town Council at Monday’s meeting, largely around the use of the space and the potential for future expansion of the proposed building.

One of the bigger concerns the architects sought to address was that the library’s upper floor was too segmented into study spaces, something that was thought to decrease the usable space of the library for spaces that wouldn’t be so heavily utilized. Instead, it was suggested that many of the study spaces be removed in favor of a more open and versatile workspace that would promote collaboration.

Pushing back on that, designers noted that the private study rooms were critical to the design of the library, not only in reducing noise — one of the persistent issues with the current building — but also in giving people space to do their work or study in privacy. While open spaces might create collaboration in a corporate environment, architects say, the same principles can’t be applied to a library, where most people go to work independently.

Members of the committee were inclined to agree.

“This is not a corporate building, it’s a public building,” said Paul Champagne, vice chairman. “And so this is this whole train of thought (that) came from a corporate environment, where we looked at it as a perspective of having public space and having some security.”

Similarly, designers opted to retain the office space for library workers, which some members of the Town Council questioned the necessity of. Designers felt it was a way to give the library director and finance staff a private space to be able to handle sensitive issues without the worry of being overheard or interrupted.

Despite the council’s input, the designers and the board largely sought to keep the plan as is, confident that they were creating the best public space they could within the budget they were given.

There was also consideration given to the future expansion of the building. Architects determined that the most likely option was adding a raised second-floor addition that will connect both parking lots, which would add around 5,000 additional square footage to the 24,000 square-foot structure.

While other areas on the property were also considered, they would require the demolition of greenspace that is an important feature of the site, and would not be able to add as much square footage as the raised addition.

The committee plans to continue advancing the process toward groundbreaking later this year. The next meeting will be on March 1st at 6 p.m at the Southington Public Library.


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