Feds come through with $1 million for Jones Library project

  • Patrons enter the Jones Library in Amherst on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/30/2022 7:57:09 PM
Modified: 12/30/2022 7:56:23 PM

AMHERST — President Joe Biden’s signing of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill while vacationing in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands this week ensures that the expansion and renovation of the Jones Library will be getting more than $1 million in federal money.

While this money is critical to the project — which has seen cost estimates rise from $36.3 million to $43.5 million due to inflation — the federal earmark is also vital to the ongoing fundraising.

Capital Campaign Co-chairman Kent Faerber calls the federal money “a key building block” for the campaign’s goal of $14 million from all sources.

“With the extraordinary level of fundraising activity we have underway, and the range and number of plausible prospects, it provides considerable optimism that the campaign can complete the balance of the funding for the renovation and expansion project, even if its cost is higher than originally estimated,” Faerber said.

The project would expand the 1928 building and its early 1990s addition from 48,000 square feet to 63,000 square feet, as well as making a series of upgrades to the library and its services.

In advance of Biden signing the bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, U.S. Rep. James McGovern last week announced the $1.11 million earmark by highlighting some of the project’s green aspects, including the use of low-embodied carbon materials in construction, the reduction of energy use intensity by 60%, and cutting lifetime carbon emissions by 41% compared to the current building.

McGovern, who was provided a tour of the building over the summer, also noted that the project will mean full accessibility for those with mobility impairments and meet a current and growing need for English language instruction space.

Faerber said he and others have been speaking with McGovern, as well as Massachusetts Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren.

“We have been working with them and their staffs for over a year, and cannot say enough about their extraordinary effectiveness in representing their constituencies,” Faerber said. 

The only other Hampshire County project in the federal spending bill is $413,000 to redesign Grow Food Northampton Community Farm so more people can grow their own food.

The capital campaign’s $14 million goal would match the $15.75 million from the town and the $13.87 million Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners grant. It has already secured $3.26 million toward that goal. Part of the capital campaign is the community campaign, with a goal of $6 million. That has so far raised $1.96 million.

Other funding sources include $50,000 in the state budget to pay for a portion of the design costs for a space within the library for its English Language and Citizenship Program, $1 million from the town’s Community Preservation Act account going for the special collections room, $200,000 from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, $46,000 from the Beveridge Foundation, and at least $1.6 million in Massachusetts historic tax credits that will come when the project is complete.

“This is yet another very important affirmation of the vision for a renovated and expanded Jones Library,” said Austin Sarat, the president of the trustees for the Jones Library.

Sarat said the process began with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners selecting the Jones Library to receive a provisional grant, the Amherst Town Council approving borrowing, followed by a referendum in which Amherst voters gave the project nearly two-thirds majority support, and contributions from generous donors. Now, he said, Congress is also embracing the vision.

“This infusion of federal funds puts wind in the sails of the work we are now doing to turn vision into reality,” Sarat said.

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