FACT CHECK: “THIS WEEK AT THE JONES LIBRARY- JULY 19 – 25”

Jones Library. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Videri Quam Esse
(To Seem To Be Rather Than To Be)

The Jones Library has started a new column in their weekly email newsletter about the proposed library demolition/expansion project. Residents can sign up for this newsletter by following the link https://www.joneslibrary.org/list.aspx and going to “News Flash – Jones Library News.”

In the coming weeks, I will fact check this column for The Indy. Statements from The Jones are quoted from their newsletter below in italics. The full text of the column on the building project is below.

“On June 10, 2020, the Jones Library Board of Trustees received an “Accessibility Review and Recommendations” report from Kuhn Riddle Architects. The study concludes that it will take between $14.4 million and $16.8 million to repair the Jones Library building. These figures DO NOT take into consideration Town Council sustainability goals, Trustee fundraising opportunities, or ways to improve programs and services. The full report can be found here.

However, the Town’s share of the project cost will be $15.8 million in order to expand the Jones Library building, and fulfill ALL our programmatic needs, including preserving our irreplaceable Special Collections archive, which recently suffered from the 4th major leak in the past five years due to HVAC malfunctions.  The project’s most recent designs can be found here.”

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Fact Check
Quoted passages from the newsletter are in italics.

“On June 10, 2020, the Jones Library Board of Trustees received an “Accessibility Review and Recommendations” report from Kuhn Riddle Architects. The study concludes that it will take between $14.4 million and $16.8 million to repair the Jones Library building. The full report can be found here. “

The statement is TRUE.  

“These figures DO NOT take into consideration Town Council sustainability goals, Trustee fundraising opportunities, or ways to improve programs and services.  The full report can be found here.”

This statement is MISLEADING in three ways. The Trustees did not ask Kuhn Riddle to assess the costs of fulfilling sustainability goals.  The Trustees did not ask Kuhn Riddle about fundraising, and KR President Aalen Tierney said at a public meeting that her firm cannot evaluate an historic structure for granting possibilities.

The Trustees asked the architects to analyze the building as it is functioning now and did not ask about improving programs and services, only accessibility. At no time have the Trustees hired a space planner to evaluate how space in the current building could be rearranged and/or used more efficiently including the entire 1993 addition which is slated for demolition.

“However, the Town’s share of the project cost will be $15.8 million in order to expand the Jones Library building, and fulfill ALL our programmatic needs, including preserving our irreplaceable Special Collections archive, which recently suffered from the 4th major leak in the past five years due to HVAC malfunctions.”

This statement is MISLEADING. The total Town share without debt service is $22 million. The Town’s cost will be $15.8 million only if the trustees raise a promised $6.1 million towards the project. If they do not, then the Town will have to pay the entire $22 million plus debt service, any added sustainability features, a 4% per year possible increase in construction costs and any cost overruns. 

The Trustees planned the library based upon a 51,000 user population but have recently admitted that Amherst only has about 19,000 residents. Residents might ask why the proposed building is so large and so costly. 

“….including preserving our irreplaceable Special Collections archive, which recently suffered from the 4th major leak in the past five years due to HVAC malfunctions.”

The statement is TRUE. The HVAC has leaked four times in five years. Residents might ask why the Trustees did not move our valuable Town archives after the first leak. 

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3 thoughts on “FACT CHECK: “THIS WEEK AT THE JONES LIBRARY- JULY 19 – 25”

  1. I hope that we will all follow your example and call out the Jones Trustees and Town Councilors every time they cite that ridiculous $16.8 million figure as the Town’s cost for a new library. As Toni Cunningham has pointed out,

    https://www.amherstindy.org/2020/06/27/lower-cost-alternative-to-jones-library-expansion-presented-to-trustees/

    a somewhat more accurate accounting of the estimated cost to the town, one that takes into account debt service and annual increases in construction costs, is $40 million and even that does not include the costs of adding sustainability features or of addressing historic preservation mandates – estimates for which are long overdue. Nor does it consider that the Town is on the hook for any shortfall in the $6.1 million that the Trustees have pledged to raise for the project. But the Trustees have been opaque about their fundraising strategy and how they will modify it to meet the donor austerity that has been brought on by the pandemic. Given the burgeoning fiscal instability that we face , It is especially difficult to know what the costs will be if/when, Amherst receives a grant from the MBLC two years hence (at the earliest), to support such a project. But it is a certainty that the cost that the town will take on will be far greater than $16.8 million.

  2. Art,
    Some additional considerations.

    Any sustainability costs have to come from the Town because the Trustees did not apply for a Green Library Initiative award in their 2017 application and cannot apply now even though the state is requiring a re-design. The amount they could have received would have been about $450,000 based upon the size of the project.

    But let’s remember the size of the demolition/expansion is NOT determined by the MBLC, but by the library itself. The library first wanted 110,000 sq. ft., then reduced to 65,000 sq. ft.

    Concerning “historical mandates,” I’m not sure that’s the correct phrase. The library must submit plans to the Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC), show that their plans will reduce and/or mitigate damage to an historic building and get approval. This was requested by the MHC in December, 2016. It has not yet been done.
    The library was awarded at total of $35,000 from the Community Preservation Act Committee and the Amherst Historic Commission for a historic structures report which was supposed to be completed in August, 2017. It is also not done. This would inform all parties as to what will be preserved or ditched.

    As to the year of a provisional grant award, not even the MBLC know for sure. It could be awarded in July, 2021 (considered FY22) or later.https://www.amherstindy.org/login/?redirect_to=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amherstindy.org%2Fwp-admin%2Fpost.php%3Fpost%3D5788%26action%3Dedit&reauth=1

    Let’s face it! The Jones is in dire need of refurbishment, renovation within the footprint or a more modest expansion plan which includes accessibility concerns and energy efficient systems. However, residents need to ask, “Do we need to demolish the 1993 addition, rebuilt that square footage and expand? Can we re-organize the library with the space we have now? Can we coordinate with other organizations and space in Amherst? Can the Town afford the current plan? Can the library maintain it?”

    I hope that the Town Council will seriously study all capital needs of out town.

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