SOUTHINGTON — Preliminary plans for a new library were presented at a special meeting of the Library Building Committee on Wednesday.
Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. presented a comprehensive cost breakdown of a planned 24,000-square-foot building, further solidifying the town’s decision to pursue a smaller building in light of rising material costs.
Though the proposed design is not yet final, and needs to be officially approved by the Town Council and Board of Finance, Whiting-Turner is hoping to have plans finalized before the end of the year so it can break ground by June.
The estimated price of construction for the current plan is $18.67 million, higher than the $17 million allocated in a referendum last November, leaving committee members torn on what to cut from the plan to reduce costs.
The committee discussed the cost of furniture, fixtures and equipment for the building, including shelves, art fixtures and computers. These account for $3.7 million of the overall project cost, with $14.9 million going towards the construction and development of the site.
Rather than cut back on new equipment, committee members debated altering parts of the building to cut costs – such as removing the proposed drive-through reception desk and a bay of sliding glass doors that open to the outdoors to increase community space in the summer.
Project planners were open to making alterations, but otherwise seemed committed to the current 24,000 square-foot design because returning to the original 30,000 square-foot plan would require more time and cost more money.
“No idea is a bad idea at this point in the game. I won’t say that six months from now,” said Whiting-Turner’s Tim Kostuk, project construction manager. “Because there’s a cost of redesign, there’s a cost of time, now’s the time to make changes.”
The committee is expected to discuss more potential changes to the plan at its next meeting Oct. 19.
Committee member Ralph Warner took issue with the sloped roof of the library’s central meeting space, which pitches back onto a flat section of the building between the first and second floors. His concern is with rain and snow falling back onto that part of the roof, it will begin to leak within several years.
“You should never pitch water toward another building,” Warner said. “I give that five years and it’s going to leak.”
Despite exceeding budget, the committee expressed satisfaction that they were close to the target number. Members felt even with the tentative commitment to a smaller, 24,000 square foot structure, that it will be a significant change from the current building. All the space will be usable. In the existing 21,000 square foot library, about 6,000 square feet in the basement is largely unusable.
“I think 24,000 square feet compared to this building, it’s night and day,” Committee Vice Chair Paul Champagne said.
Mary Baker, a member of the town library board, echoed similar sentiments.
“I’m very excited to see us go forward with the new building and see what we can manage with a new facility,” she said. “We’re going to have a study space, we’re going to have a programming space, we’re going to eliminate sound issues and we’re going to keep the entire collection. So I’d like to say that size doesn’t matter, perhaps.”
However, some residents remain dissatisfied that the planned building is way short of the original 30,000 square foot proposal - saying the 24,000 square foot plan isn’t large enough to serve the size of the community.
“It really feels like we’re just moving forward with the 24,000 square foot library. It seems like there’s a disconnect from the conversations that are happening both at Town Council and the community about looking for more money, looking for ways to give this town a library that would be appropriately sized,” said resident Katie Wade.
The town will be hosting a booth during the second weekend of the upcoming Apple Harvest Festival to answer questions about plans for the library.