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.