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Reading Library Project Cost Estimate Up Some $2.5 Million

This Town Meeting article generated heat at Tuesday's selectmen meeting.

A $2.5 million higher estimate for the Reading Public Library renovation and expansion project was one of the top items discussed at Tuesday's selectmen meeting.

The town’s estimated share of the project has risen from $7 million to just under $9.8 million. The state would provide $5.1 million – provided that the town approves its share of the costs by June. The town must do more than renovate the building to qualify for the state money, according to the town manager.

The prior cost estimate for the whole project underestimated some “soft,” non-construction costs, according to library Director Ruth Urell, including contingency funds; moving to temporary quarters for the 18-month project and storing for two-thirds of the library collection during the construction. The estimate also failed to include the cost of a new library roof. Construction costs also rose, according to a Jan. 22 design cost summary from cost consultant A.M. Fogarty and Associates, Inc., by roughly $480,000 for 2014, including a 10 percent contingency.

Spending money to improve just the building “envelope” would be “poorly spent,” Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner said.

The town has had to spend money on the library on an emergency basis, concurred Finance Committee Chairman David Greenfield. "Significant" investment has to be made to the building, he said. It makes sense, he said, to do it all at once.

The selectmen voted 4-0 to support the library project warrant article. Selectman Stephen Goldy was absent.

While describing the project as “excellent,” Selectman James Bonazoli said he was concerned about the town’s “lack of methodology” in compiling the project costs. The additional $40 a year that the project is estimated to cost homeowners could be hard on residents on a fixed income, he said. If they sell their homes, he continued, families with children could move in, raising school enrollment.

Under the town charter, the Finance Committee must vote on a money article at least seven days prior to Town Meeting but had not yet done so, resident Bill Brown said. Both Town Counsel and Town Meeting Moderator Alan Foulds have ruled on that issue, Hechenbleikner said. If the seven-day requirement is not necessary, “we should look at a charter change,” said Bonazoli.

FinCom voted 8-0 at the selectmen’s meeting to accept the library renovation and additional warrant article.

Bill January 26, 2013 at 07:25 PM
I should also add, I would support demolishing the existing structure and replacing it with a more modern, energy efficient and limited space facility. I think a builder in town could do that for about $3M...far less than the artificially inflated quotes that the town has received.
M January 26, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Rather than think about the library as a $2 per admission charge, I think the better analogy might be something like Amazon prime - Amazon prime. For $79 a year, you get unlimited streaming of a certain set of a few thousand movies, one free kindle book borrow a month, free 2day shipping. Here, for nothing (at present) other than your existing taxes, you get unlimited borrowings of books and movies from a selection of hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions, if you count noblenet) of books and certainly at least thousands of movies. Plus free use of library and its computer facilities, free programs, story hours, book clubs, etc. Is that worth $150 a year? Many would say yes, but maybe not ON TOP of our existing, very very high property taxes. There must be a happy medium of "fix it first" - notwithstanding the town manager's statement that we can't just fix the shell of the library....why can't we? We need a comparison of a "keep the status quo and fix what MUST be repaired" vs "expand to be the ultimate library of future", I find it hard to believe we can't rewire the existing library to include cameras to "monitor the dark corners" (as the library report states), upgrade the electrical for more outlets, etc. Plus fix the roof, new windows, etc.
Ron Powell January 26, 2013 at 09:11 PM
Bill, I'm afraid that Marina is right to a degree. Public libraries do continue to provide a valuable resource to the underemployed and unemployed, and this particular library offers quite a few community outreach programs. The most comprehensive research on the importance of public libraries -- the US Impact Public Library Study -- has found that the public libraries of the nation are still relevant to (as of 2010), and within all socio-economic groups and in all regions of the country. I strongly support the mission and charter of the Reading Public Library, and my family uses it at least once as month. Having stated that, I am a bit troubled by the cost of this particular renovation project. $15 million dollars seems out of line with cohort renovation projects.
Geo January 26, 2013 at 09:52 PM
With the Feds increasing the FICA tax and more to follow, and the State getting ready to increase taxes, we are in no position to do the same. Lets be fiscally responsible here. Life safety (police, fire), essential operations to run the town are what we should focus on and maintain. The "nice to have" items need to be shelved for the foreseeable future. The library project is one of those "nice to have" items,
sonny January 27, 2013 at 02:21 AM
I go to the library almost every week. I never have trouble finding parking, its not crowded, I am able to find what I need, there are staff available if I have a need or question. Reading the report, I think that a new roof, windows, masonary repair etc could be done at a cost of much less than 15 million. I can live with repairs and dealing with the other issues mentioned.

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