Amherst councilors seek financial details on Jones Library project

  • Jones Library in Amherst GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/7/2021 7:35:06 PM
Modified: 1/7/2021 7:34:53 PM

AMHERST — By the end of April, Jones Library trustees would like the Town Council to decide on whether it will support a $35.6 million expansion and renovation project at the Amity Street building.

With just over three months remaining before that deadline, which could be extended unilaterally by councilors, the council this week voted to send a letter requesting information from the trustees that will give the elected officials a better handle on the finances of the project, and how it compares to potentially pursuing rehabilitation of the building instead. The library was constructed in 1928 and last enlarged in the 1990s.

“Recognizing the significant effort and work of the present and past Jones Library Boards of Trustees, the Town Council views this memo as the basis for establishing an opportunity to consolidate that information and present it to the Town Council and the residents of Amherst,” the letter states.

In October, trustees unanimously voted to approve a renovation and expansion plan by Finegold Alexander Architects, which depends on a $13.7 million Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners construction grant expected to be awarded in July, with taxpayers asked to cover $15.9 million. The remaining costs of the project will be paid for through $2.9 million in private fundraising and $3.1 million from historic tax credits.

Councilors, though, say that the library project can’t be done in isolation, as three other major building projects are also in the pipeline, including a new elementary school, a fire station for South Amherst and a Department of Public Works headquarters.

The letter from the Town Council advises trustees that all aspects of the library project should be presented both in written form, with an accompanying oral presentation, at a future Town Council meeting. That would be followed by a public forum in which residents could ask questions, as well as state their opinion for or against the project.

District 3 Councilor George Ryan said it is important to have ample opportunity for follow-up questions to trustees about the project.

Specifically, the letter asks for precise comparisons between the project submitted to the state for funding, which includes an addition to the 48,000-square-foot building that will include new space dedicated to teens, children and special collections, and two repair-only options, one for $16.8 million with three phases and the other for $14.4 million with two phases.

Councilors would like initial cost estimates, details of energy efficiency upgrades and use of renewable materials. The councilors also are seeking cost estimates of removing demolition debris and expenses for renting off site space for collection and services is. The letter also asks trustees to provide information about whether the building would be in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations and if new furniture, carpets, stacks and other furnishings are included in the pricetag.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

 




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