Deerfield voters approve $12.3M for library expansion

  • Volunteer David Robinson checks in a voter at Deerfield Town Hall on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Campaign signs outside Deerfield Town Hall on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2022 6:19:29 PM

DEERFIELD — Tilton Library’s expansion project can now move forward, as residents gave their approval for the second time in less than two months on Tuesday night, passing a debt-exclusion override by a vote of 909-707.

The debt exclusion approval, which follows October’s special Town Meeting vote, puts the library in a position to fund an expansion of the building from 4,366 square feet to 12,784 square feet. Voter turnout at the polls on Tuesday was 40%, with 1,620 voters casting their ballots, according to the unofficial results.

“We’re just so pleased and thrilled, and we’re going to get back to work,” said Tilton Library Director Candace Bradbury-Carlin, who has been involved in the project since 2014. “I’m excited to see how the town will embrace this really important building.”

At October’s special Town Meeting, two-thirds of voters authorized appropriating $12.3 million in total for the project — although the actual amount borrowed will most likely be in the $5.26 million to $6.26 million range. The library received a $4 million grant through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) in July that must be matched by early January for the town to retain it.

With the approval at the ballot box, the library can match the grant and begin the long process toward breaking ground. Once the election results are certified, the MBLC will reach out to the town with a contract to sign and once that’s done, Tilton Library officials can begin working with an architect in the design development phase.

The public will be invited to weigh in on this phase — although certain elements of the initial design are set in stone — and Bradbury-Carlin expects the project to go out to bid in the summer with construction beginning in October or November.

“I think people are going to be really pleased and very happy to be part of the team that is providing that,” Bradbury-Carlin said of public participation.

While the initial borrowing estimates are $5.26 to $6.26 million, Bradbury-Carlin said that number could decrease depending on whether the state grants additional American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money. The Deerfield Selectboard previously rallied together with other municipalities across the state facing similar pandemic-related price increases for capital projects in an appeal to the governor. On top of potential additional ARPA funding, Bradbury-Carlin said officials will be “madly pursuing” other grants as well.

Tilton Library’s project — the first major renovation since the 1990s — will include energy efficiency upgrades, renovating and expanding existing rooms, and improving accessibility. In-depth information about the project can be found at tiltonlibrary.org/building-project.

One of the additions Bradbury-Carlin highlighted previously is a meeting room that could seat up to 80 people, while also being accessible to the public after the library closes for the day. The library has never had a dedicated meeting room. Other additions include more bathrooms, additional computer stations, a designated teen area and a larger parking lot.

Tuesday’s library vote was the third total in Franklin County this year and the second one to be approved. In May, Shutesbury residents approved borrowing for the replacement of the century-old M.N. Spear Memorial Library after rejecting the project more than a decade ago. In Orange, however, residents shot down a debt-exclusion override in November’s general election, which would have approved borrowing for an expansion to the Wheeler Memorial Library under the same grant program Tilton Library received money from.

Bradbury-Carlin thanked Tilton Library’s staff, its trustees and all the residents who came out to participate in the decision Tuesday.

“I think people are going to be really pleased,” she said.


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