SOUTHINGTON — A plan to construct a new library has received the approvals needed for the Town Council to send the $16.9 million project to a November referendum.
“People of all ages seem to recognize that we need and deserve a library that will accommodate a growing town,” said Library Board member Walter Grover.
The Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Finance approved the project this month.
The library will host a “Facts and Feedback” virtual presentation on June 24 at 7 p.m. Participants will be able to ask questions about the project and make comments.
The Town Council will hold a public hearing on June 28 — the same night the panel is scheduled to vote on sending the proposal to referendum.
The new 29,900 square foot building would be constructed on the same site as the current 50-year-old building, 255 Main St. The existing library has around 21,000 square feet of space.
“A lot of people are saying that libraries are a dying breed, despite (that) the number of people visiting libraries is growing and growing,” Grover said. “ … There's a definite need for what we call a community hub or community center.”
Kristi Sadowski, the library’s executive director, told the Board of Finance that the new building would have expanded space for children and teens, more meeting space for individuals and groups and better acoustical separation. It will also comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The new building would also allow greater integration with technology, which is especially important as the coronavirus pandemic has increased use of the library’s digital services. The library is encouraging residents to fill out a survey to gain greater insight into how people plan to use the library post-pandemic.
“People have had a year where they mostly utilized the library through its online options and we want to see how people will continue to use the library,” Grover said.
Finance board Chairperson John Leary said he’s concerned that without additional details regarding construction costs available the $16.9 million might not be enough .
“When we’re doing a big project like this, I just want to make sure that we don’t get the square feet that we want, but we somehow … value engineer and we go cheap on some of the integral parts and then we’re in here later and everybody’s shaking their heads at why we didn’t do something better, nicer,” Leary said.
Town Manager Mark Sciota said that when past projects ran into financing issues, the town opted to scale back the size of the buildings, as was the case with the Southington Calendar House Senior Center. Any additional expenditures beyond the $16.9 million would require an additional referendum, he said.