FAQs – Library Renovation/Expansion
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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:
- electrical and data infrastructure
- 1908 slate roof
- original windows in the 1908 building
- lack of restrooms
- lack of ADA compliance in the entire building, including elevator, doors, and access to all public areas
Multiple surveys over the last ten years (https://tinyurl.com/wplsurveyspast) indicate that residents want things like:
- small meeting/study rooms
- better technology
- proper lighting and more windows to allow for natural light
- improved space for all ages
- more/better restrooms
- a library in the downtown area
Why are we having another town meeting about the library? Didn’t we vote it down?
This is an action taken by residents. Massachusetts state law states that the Select Board must schedule a special town meeting within 45 days if a petition signed by at least 200 registered voters requests one. A group of people interested in the library presented a citizens’ petition with 575 signatures to the Town Clerk on Monday, November 7, 2022. The Select Board met on November 15, 2022 and scheduled a special town meeting for December 10, 2022, as required by state law for the form of town government we have chosen in Westborough. The articles as presented in the warrant are exactly the same as the articles presented in the October Town Meeting warrant.
How much will the Renovation and Expansion Project 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, until July 2022. We have until January 9, 2023 to accept or reject the grant.
- Westborough hired an Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) who is a construction professional that represents the town & library and works to reduce costs and risks on the project.
- The construction manager and architect we’ve secured created separate, independent cost estimates this summer and worked with the OPM to reconcile the differences. Our new cost estimate is $35,161,877 including cost reductions made since October. The increase was caused by the historic period of current inflation. All construction projects – public, private, commercial, and residential, are experiencing the same issue. The scarcity/supply chain issues in the construction industry are exacerbating the situation.
- The design team has already started “value engineering” by substituting copper panels for less expensive (but still visually appealing and functional) aluminum panels on the exterior of the building. They have also changed materials used in screening mechanical equipment on the roof from view. They will continue to look for cost savings like this throughout the project.
- The town’s responsibility will be approximately $26 million after reducing the project costs by the grant.
How much will this cost the average single-family household?
The town’s Finance Director created a high-level estimate based on projections including a lot of “unknowns” right now, including interest rates, timing of the borrow, and other factors. Her estimate concluded the highest tax impact would be the first year of the borrowing, which would likely be in fiscal year 2026 or 2027. Assuming a 4.5% interest rate, the increase would be $316 on the average single family annual tax bill the first year. Because municipal debt is “declining debt,” this tax impact would be less over time, so it would average out to be about $245 per year, or about $4.71 per week. The cumulative interest payments over time will be $10.8 million and are included in these figures. (https://tinyurl.com/wpltaximpacts-update)
What is the basis for the estimated tax impact?
The town’s finance director estimated a total cost of approximately $26 million, paid over 20 years at an interest rate of 4.5%. The town would pay off 1/20th of the principal each year for 20 years.
What measures are in place to control costs?
We are using Construction Management at Risk (CMR) as the construction delivery method. With CMR, a construction management firm has been hired with a cost-plus contract not to exceed a guaranteed maximum price that must be lower than the construction budget that is included in the overall request at Special Town Meeting. The CM was hired early in the process so that the firm that would be building the project would have significant input into the design process. Their team will be working with the architect 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.
Isn’t this cost is just an estimate? Why didn’t the library do a more detailed cost estimate?
To develop a bid package, our architect would need to complete construction design, which would take approximately one year and cost over $1 million. All of Westborough’s capital projects for the last decades have been considered, discussed, and approved based on cost estimates exactly like the one we have presented, most recently the Gibbons Middle School and Fales Elementary School projects. There will be two additional detailed cost estimates completed at key points in the design process to confirm that the budget remains on track. If costs increase at that point, value engineering would be conducted to keep the budget on track.
Why wasn’t the architect given a budget to design to?
That’s not how municipal construction projects work. The first step is a needs assessment, followed by a high level design. That design is the basis for the cost estimate. For our project, the architect used an independent cost estimator, and the construction manager did a separate cost estimate. They met and reconciled their estimates, which produced the project budget that is being presented at the December 10, 2022 Special Town Meeting. This process ensures that cities and towns construct the facilities they need, based on design and estimating work done by professionals with experience and credentials.
Why can’t we just repair what we have? Isn’t that cheaper?
Base repairs are not eligible for grant funding from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The state agency expects municipalities to repair and maintain their own buildings. Westborough would lose $9.4 million by going the base repair route.
- An investigation into base repair for the building gave a ballpark estimate of $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
- either retrofitting for, or installing, all-electric heating/AC systems.
- Just repairing the existing building would fix short-term problems without addressing the future needs of the community. The community expects 21st century library services which are not possible in a building that was designed for 1980s era usage.
- Base repairs may have to be done piecemeal, over time, by multiple design and construction teams. This approach would take much longer, be more expensive, and is harder to control and predict. The piecemeal option has been tried with another town project (Hastings school), and has proven to have undesirable outcomes.
- The Renovation and Expansion Project 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.
Why didn’t the library do a more complete cost estimate for base repair?
The design team and OPM did create a ballpark estimate of $19 million using cost data from a previous library project and escalated those costs to present day. Obtaining a more complete cost estimate for base repair of equivalent quality to the estimate for the full Renovation and Expansion Project was outside the scope of work the architect was hired to perform, and beyond the charge of the Library Building Committee. The development of this scope and estimate would have cost an additional $250,000. Base repair does not meet the program needs of the library.
Why is base repair so expensive?
The basic repairs needed (replace windows and roof, replace the aging elevator, update the electrical and data systems, upgrade the bathrooms) would require multiple extensive changes to bring the library into compliance with current building codes, including full ADA compliance, a fire suppression system, the stretch energy code, and possibly plumbing and structural improvements).
What happens if the Renovation and Expansion Project doesn’t pass at this Special Town Meeting?
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, the Library Trustees and Building Committee would be forced to:
- Decline the $9.4 million grant, which would then go toward funding another municipality’s library project.
- Start the entire process all over again, and lose a decade of work by the current project team. A new procurement process for a designer, owner’s project manager, and construction manager would have to be initiated. This would take a significant amount of time.
- Develop a plan for base repair and get it into the town’s Capital Plan. The Renovation and Expansion Project IS part of the current Capital Plan but any new project would have to go back through the process and be scheduled around other projects and purchases for other departments.
- Bring an article to the spring 2023 or fall 2023 Town Meeting for funds to pay for design work on base repairs. 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.
Why not build a new library somewhere else? Isn’t that cheaper?
Based on surveys, needs assessment, focus groups, and feedback from residents, most residents want the library to stay in its current location. Here’s our breakdown of the pros/ cons of keeping the library where it is:
- Based on our surveys, needs assessment, focus groups, and feedback from residents, most residents prefer the current location
- Central location that is walkable for many residents and students (other available locations would require driving for almost everyone; 55% of Westborough’s students can walk to 55 West Main)
- Historic building
- Attracts visitors to downtown
- What would be done with the library building if the library moved permanently?
- New construction may be less expensive than renovation
- Parking would be less of an issue
Early in the process, as part of our application for the construction grant, we evaluated alternate locations (near the Senior Center and near Lake Chauncy). Because we chose a central location for the grant application, we can’t change locations without losing the grant funding.
Will the expanded library be “green” and support Westborough’s sustainability initiatives?
Yes. The building is designed to meet the 2023 stretch code requirements, including a high-efficiency building envelope and use of all-electric heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (air-sourced heat pumps). It will not be net zero, because the building does not have enough roof space for solar. A representative of Sustainable Westborough is on the Library Building Committee to support sustainability measures.
Who created this plan?
An expert group of consultants, designers, and construction professionals have been working on this plan for THE LAST TEN YEARS:
- The Architect is Lamoureux Pagano Associates Architects (52 years in business).
- The Owner’s Project Manager is Vertex, Inc. (27 years in business),
- The Construction Manager is Fontaine Bros., Inc. (89 years in business).
- The 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 with construction/industry experience.
- Library staff have been consulted throughout the project.
- Staff of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners have reviewed the designs regularly to ensure design changes meet the Library Building Program. (https://tinyurl.com/wplbuildingprogram)
The entire plan is based on a blend of extensive public input, demographic data, historic usage data, and future projections. If the project is approved, this team that will work to ensure Westborough’s needs are met.
What about parking?
The 2019-2020 Downtown Parking Study showed that there is not a parking problem in the downtown area. There’s nowhere on the library lot to add additional parking – the Building Committee has looked at underground, rooftop, and slanted on-street parking that would take away some of the front lawn – and none were viable options. Downsizing the building to accommodate enough parking was also not a viable option. There just isn’t enough space. The Town, and the Select Board, are working on a plan to:
- Map out where on-street parking can be found (what streets/sides /time allocation).
- Create a wayfinding system where people can FIND parking. (This is needed, not just for the library, but for the improved Forbes Municipal Building which has the Great Hall that was designed for large public gatherings/meetings).
- Implement elements of the Master Plan which call for (by residents) more activity/business/housing downtown.
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]