Tilton Library info session planned ahead of Deerfield Town Meeting vote

  • Tilton Library at 75 North Main St. in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2022 12:49:23 PM
Modified: 9/27/2022 12:48:31 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Ahead of the Oct. 24 special Town Meeting vote on borrowing money for Tilton Library’s expansion project, the library is hosting a virtual question-and-answer session for residents on Thursday.

In July, Tilton Library received a nearly $4 million grant that will partially fund an expansion project — the first major renovation since the 1990s — that the library has been eyeing for more than a decade. To initiate the project, however, the town’s voters must match the grant, and then some, by authorizing the appropriation or borrowing of money at special Town Meeting. The total project is expected to cost $12.3 million.

The virtual information session is meant to help residents learn about how this project has unfolded and to answer any questions. It begins at 5:30 p.m. and town residents can sign up and receive a Zoom link by emailing TiltonLibrary@cwmars.org.

“We’ve been working on the expansion project since 2014,” Satu Zoller, chair of Tilton Library’s board of trustees, said in an event announcement. “We hope many in the community will tune in to this Zoom Q-and-A so that they can get answers to their questions and see just how far we’ve come in the process.”

The current estimate for the library project represents a more than 50% increase in costs from the original $8 million estimate. When the library’s grant application was approved by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) in 2017, it was expected the grant would cover half of the project.

While the special Town Meeting warrant article says $12.3 million, the actual amount that needs to be borrowed will end up much lower than that. Tilton Library has set a $2 million fundraising goal — it has already raised more than $750,000 — which, combined with the nearly $4 million grant, will mean Deerfield would need to borrow roughly $6 million.

“There is no scenario in which we need to borrow $12.3 million. I guess you say this number ($12.3 million) because this is what the cost estimate is,” Select Board member Tim Hilchey commented at the board’s Sept. 21 meeting. “That’s why it’s such a difficult thing for people to understand, is because there’s no way we’re going to borrow $12.3 million.”

In essence, the Select Board and Town Administrator Kayce Warren explained, Town Meeting voters must approve a borrowing limit of $12.3 million — the total cost of the project — even if it is not planning to borrow that much money. Once that approval is granted, Hilchey said the town can then “pay for it in various ways,” which means using the grant and fundraising money to reduce the amount of borrowing required.

The panel for Thursday’s information session will include MBLC building specialists Lauren Stara and Andrea Bunker; Tilton Library Architect Philip O’Brien of Johnson Roberts Associates; Hadley Public Library Director Patrick Borezo; South Hadley Public Library Director Joe Rodio; and Sunderland Public Library Trustee Lorin Starr.

Stara, Bunker and O’Brien, along with Tilton Library Director Candace Bradbury-Carlin and Zoller, will answer questions about the Tilton’s proposed expansion. Borezo, Rodio and Starr will talk about their experience with the MBLC’s grant process and how their communities came together to support library projects of their own.

If undertaken, Tilton Library’s project would include energy efficiency upgrades, renovating and expanding existing rooms, and improving accessibility. A slideshow presenting the library’s plans can be viewed at bit.ly/36nNjI7.

Tilton Library was built in 1916 with a bequest local grocer Chauncey B. Tilton left in his will, along with municipal and private contributions. The library, at 75 North Main St., has not had a major renovation since the 1990s, when a wheelchair-accessible lift and additional children’s room space was added. An update to the front steps for historical preservation purposes took place in 2011.

Voters will have a chance to decide on the funding during Oct. 24’s special Town Meeting, which is slated for 6 p.m. at Frontier Regional School. If the funding article is approved, a special election will be held for a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion vote, which town officials expect will be in early December, if necessary.

If the funding is not approved and the town and Tilton Library can’t commit the project’s full cost, then the state grant will be lost and the project will have to start from the beginning.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.
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