Jones Library trustees seek more info. on costs of renovation without state support

  • The atrium of the Jones Library in Amherst is seen last month. Gazette File photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/19/2019 7:01:28 PM

AMHERST — Before a project to expand and renovate the Jones Library that depends on a state construction grant moves forward, elected trustees will again solicit estimates from a consultant to determine the cost of just renovating the building and making it fully handicapped accessible.

The decision by trustees Wednesday to seek cost projections for work that would make the existing building “like new,” but which would add no new space to the 48,000-square-foot building, comes after a recent Joint Capital Planning Committee in which library, town and school officials discussed the four major building projects Amherst expects to embark on in the coming years. Those include a new Department of Public Works headquarters and a new fire station for South Amherst, and an elementary school building to replace Wildwood and Fort River schools. 

Library trustee Tamson Ely said the idea is to get a realistic estimate for both the deferred maintenance — such as replacing the skylight in the atrium and an elevator, installing new carpeting and upgrading mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems — but forgoing an expansion to 65,000 square feet, should the Town Council not support this spending.

Ely said councilors have asked that this information be provided as part of the planning process for a renovated and expanded building.

The plans submitted for funding through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners are for a $35.6 million renovation and expansion, with $13.87 million coming from the state and anticipated fundraising, grants and historic tax credits likely to reduce the total cost to taxpayers.

In 2017, Western Builders of Granby provided an estimate of renovations costing $8.1 million to $9.6 million. The higher-end estimates are for doing the work in phases that would allow library operations to continue during the project.

Before embarking on getting a new estimate, trustees President Austin Sarat said he will write a letter to Council President Lynn Griesemer and Town Manager Paul Bockelman to get clarification about what should be included and whether the renovations should focus on deferred maintenance or making the entire building accessible.

Ely said she would be uncomfortable spending in excess of $10 million if the town were not getting an accessible library, including having all stacks wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. The library would be required to do full-scale ADA compliance if project costs exceed 30 percent of assessed property value over a three-year period.

The original library building opened in 1928, and it was expanded in 1993.

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Jones Library is seeking to enter into an agreement with the trustees to take on some of the responsibility for raising money for the latest building project.

Sarat said staff members remain enthusiastic about the plans to expand and renovate the building. 


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