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Committee closing in on budget for new Southington library

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SOUTHINGTON — Planning for the new Southington Public Library project is wrapping up as building committee members navigate how to shave several thousand dollars off the budget before a Jan. 25 meeting to finalize the details. 

Much of the committee’s effort has focused on getting costs to within the $17 million earmarked in a 2021 referendum, versus a $17,930,367 estimated cost for the project, according to the most recent analysis. Town Manager Mark Sciota, a member of the board, presented several further adjustments that could get the library to within striking distance of its goals. 

A large factor is the inclusion of community donations toward the project, which Sciota reports is around $400,000. Third-party fundraising groups indicated it was possible to raise another $300,000, for a total of $700,000 that could be put toward shaving down the town’s overhead on the project costs. 

Another design feature could also be cut from the final plan — a snow-melting system for the pavement, saving $70,000. Sciota and town officials reported that similar systems at Southington High School aren’t effective.

The remaining amount would be saved by reducing the contingency fund by half a percent, which amounts to over $100,000. 

While board officials state that there remains some fluidity in the final number as they await a solid cost analysis of the furniture, lighting, and flooring packages, it should remain largely consistent with their projections.

Sciota and the others took time during the meeting to express their satisfaction with the direction of the project and how the designers at DRA and Whiting-Turner have tried to tailor the scaled-back plan to meet the needs of the community. 

“We're in really good shape,” Sciota said during the meeting. “I feel really comfortable using these numbers moving forward, because I want to get something because I know that a lot of people call up and say ‘where are you?’ This is where were are.”

The board is also looking to again evaluate what furniture at the library can be brought over into the new building to shave off additional expenses. At a prior meeting it was mentioned that outside of certain items from the children’s programming space and several shelves, much of the existing furniture would be scrapped as it’s either in aging condition or doesn’t match the aesthetic of the final product. It remains uncertain, though, if that’s changed with additional assessment on the behalf of the library staff. 

Board member Ralph Warner, a plumber by trade, brought up additional discussion of reducing the size of the water heater in the building, which is slated for 60 gallons, for a more compact unit to save on cost. He argued that the bathrooms in the facility won’t be used often enough to require a water heater of that size, but it was ultimately decided to keep the larger unit to properly accommodate the needs of visitors. 

 The architects at DRA presented updated schematics based off input from the prior meeting before the end of the new year, showing off a full implementation of two sliding doors in the community room — keeping the long-debated feature that was considered a selling point of the original 30,000 square-foot plan, albeit scaled back from the original design. 

Though some residents have continued to express concerns with the scaled back version of the library, the designers remain confident that their final design has all the amenities the community needs that make the next facility a significant improvement over the current one — even if smaller than other libraries in the surrounding communities.

“This core team that we’ve had, they’ve worked with us for the better part of 20 years. The approaches are driven by your budget, driven by dollars,” said Jim Barrett, an architect with DRA. “I have a lot of confidence that the approaches that they’re taking.”

At the end of the meeting, the sitting members of the committee expressed their satisfaction with the current plans and the current direction of the project — reflecting on the work that’s been done over the past year in trying to make a library that’s best for Southington.

“We held you guys to some pretty strict timelines on some pretty big events, and they’ve very quickly come through with not a lot of fanfare. I appreciate the effort you guys have put into this project,” Committee Chair Jim Morelli said, thanking the architects. 

“Nobody wants to put their name on something unless they’re doing their due diligence, and I think you guys are doing a great job. We appreciate your time,” added Warner. 

The next library building committee meeting is scheduled for Jan. 25 at 6 p.m at the Southington Library and will mark the finalization of the planning phase before moving forward in coordination with other committees for the beginning of purchasing and construction.



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