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Southington library board recommends new building for $14M

Southington library board recommends new building for $14M

reporter photo

SOUTHINGTON — The library board is recommending a new library building at $14 million despite the objection of some who wanted a larger structure.

The board voted 6 to 3 on Thursday for the plan that will go to the Town Council for approval. Voters will have a chance to weigh in   at a referendum in November.

The town’s capital budget included $13.9 million for a new library, a figure that Town Council leaders said was a maximum. Initial estimates for a new library that had everything library officials wanted were nearly $20 million.

Two options were under consideration: renovating and adding to the existing library or building a new structure on the south portion of the property.

With Thursday’s vote, the board recommended a new building that’s smaller than designs released earlier this year.

Library officials wanted a new library to increase space and address handicapped accessibility issues.

The library planning committee, led by library board member Joanne Kelleher, recommended a new building at a cost of nearly $17 million.

Keeping down costs

Mary Baker, a Republican board member who supported a new building at $13.9 million, said the cost of a new library had to be one that residents could afford. In addition to a new library, residents will vote on $10 million in road improvements in the November referendum.

“Some of us were very conscious of the cost,” she said.

Baker hopes the new building will have a flexible layout that allows services to move in response to need. While she would have liked a larger building, a new library won’t have the accessibility and noise issues of the current one.

“Anything new is a benefit,” Baker said.

Not enough space

Walter Grover, a library board Democrat, wasn’t in favor of a building he said is too small for demand.

“It’s like a family of six buying a two bedroom house,” he said.

Since the aisles in a new library would be wider to accommodate wheelchairs, Grover said there’d be less room for the library’s collection.

“The library is going to be much smaller than what it should be,” he said. “We’re already far below what towns of our size have in terms of a collection.”

Grover suggested spending $14.9 million on a new library, saying fundraising could defray the cost of a larger building. That motion was rejected in a 6 to 3 vote.

The Town Council will meet Monday for an executive session presentation from library officials and architect Jeffrey Hoover.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ