Building Project Rendering of adult area

Why do we need a new library?

A needs assessment in 2012 concluded that the library was undersized to meet the then-current, and future, needs and desires of the community. Numerous code and ADA issues were identified including the electrical and data infrastructure, the 1908 slate roof, the original windows in the 1908 building, and a lack of restrooms. A full description of the building’s deficiencies can be found starting on page 12 of the Library Building Program document. In addition, multiple surveys over the last 10 years indicate that residents want things like small meeting/study rooms, better technology, proper lighting, and improved space for all ages. This project was designed to meet community needs for decades to come, while preserving and restoring the beautiful historic building.

How much will this cost?

The original estimate in the 2016-17 construction grant application was $24 million, and a $9.4 million grant was awarded based on that application, by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The project was on a waiting list for disbursement of funds for 5 years.

As the project neared the top of the waiting list, the Library Building Committee was re-formed in 2021. A new Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) was hired to help obtain a new cost estimate. The first step was to hire our Construction Manager. While that process was taking place, the architects met with staff, neighbors, and patrons to get feedback on current (post-pandemic) usage and work flows, and did a limited redesign of the addition. The construction manager and architect then each did independent cost estimates. They met with the OPM to reconcile the estimates into one document. Our new cost estimate is $36,698,556 due to escalation, the historic period of inflation we’re currently in, and the scarcity/supply chain issues related to construction materials. It is important to note that the six other communities that were awarded grants and are going to fall Town Meetings are also experiencing the same level of inflation.

Reducing the project cost by the amount of the grant, the town’s responsibility will be approximately $28 million.

How much will this cost the average single-family household?

The Finance Director created a very high-level estimate based on projected figures that include a lot of “unknowns” right now, including interest rates, timing of the borrow, and other factors. Her estimate concluded the highest amount would be the first year of the borrowing, which would be $332 of the tax bill. Because municipal debt is “declining debt,” the payment would be less over time, so it would average out to be about $250 per year. More information is in the tax impact memo.

Will the cost go up further?

No, it will not. Because the Construction Manager was hired early in the process, their team will be working with the designers and OPM to make sure the drawings and designs are “buildable” and that costs are tightly controlled. This method has been used successfully in Westborough on numerous school projects, which all came in under budget with funds returned to the town. There will be extensive testing of the historic building, soil testing, and other engineering studies before construction begins, so that all existing conditions are known and accounted for. In addition, the project team will do further cost estimating at least twice more during the project to ensure it is coming in on time and on budget.

Why can’t we just repair/renovate?

Base repairs are not eligible for grant funding from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The state agency only funds construction/renovation projects, and expect municipalities to repair and maintain their own buildings. Westborough would lose $9.4 million by going this route.

An order-of-magnitude investigation into base repair for the building estimated that it would cost $19 million to fix the major issues and bring the building up to full code compliance. Full compliance includes (but isn’t limited to) making the entire building ADA accessible, adding a sprinkler system and new water service, updating and adding additional restrooms, meeting the Stretch Energy Code and seismic codes, and either planning to retrofit or installing all-electric heating/AC systems.

Just repairing the existing building will fix short-term problems without addressing the future needs of the community. In short, the library would be expected to offer 21st century library services in a building that was designed for 1980s era usage.

The renovation/expansion is designed in a way that meets current needs, but is flexible enough to accommodate changing usage patterns and new technology that will evolve over the coming decades.

Paying $19 million to renovate vs. $28 million to renovate, preserve, expand, and provide for the needs of residents for decades to come is a more responsible use of taxpayer funds and better serves the community.

Who created this plan?

An expert group of consultants, designers, and construction professionals have been working on this plan for the last ten years. Our architect is Lamoureux Pagano Associates Architects (52 years in business). Our owner’s project manager is Vertex, Inc. (27 years in business), and our construction manager is Fontaine Bros., Inc. (89 years in business). Our Library Building Committee is made up of residents who represent various other boards/committees/groups including the Library Trustees, Select Board, Advisory Finance Committee, Municipal Building Committee, and residents at large. Library staff have been consulted throughout the project as well. The entire plan is based on a blend of demographic data, historic usage data, future projections, and feedback from the public.

What happens if the renovation/expansion doesn’t pass at (Special) Town Meeting?

It is important to note that the deadline for the town to approve or reject the funds is January 9, 2023, six months after the date that the grant was awarded.

If the project is defeated at a (Special) Town Meeting, there are a significant repairs that are needed and that cannot wait. The Library Trustees and Building committee could:

— Bring an article to the spring 2023 or fall 2023 Town Meeting for funds to pay for design work on renovation/repairs. This means declining the $9.4 million grant, which would then go toward funding another municipality’s library project. Funding for the repair work would then be brought forward at a future Town Meeting (possibly in 2024 or 2025) while costs continue to escalate and the building continues to deteriorate. The decade of work by the current project team would be lost; and a new procurement process for a designer, owner’s project manager, and construction manager would have to be initiated.

— Develop a plan to “band-aid” the building working through the process of getting the repairs into the town’s Capital Plan. The renovation/expansion IS part of the current Capital Plan but any new project would have to go back through the process and be scheduled in around other projects and purchases for other departments.

Where can I find more information or ask a question?

There’s a wealth of information online, including the Library Building Program, construction grant application with supporting information, and ongoing updates on the Library Building Project web page.

Library Building Committee agendas, minutes, meeting recordings, and documents are all available on Google Drive.

You can email the Library Director, Maureen Amyot, anytime at [email protected]

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