Library Project Dilemma – Reduce Costs, Raise More Funds, Or Both

Sustainability Table

Todd Holland and Sara Draper staff the Sustainability Table at the May 1 Jones Library Open House. (photo: Jeff Lee)

Jones Library News Highlights For The Week Of May 2, 2022

Council President Appeals to Legislators For Federal Aid To Library Capital Campaign
At the May 2 Town Council meeting President Lynn Griesemer made public a letter she had written at the behest of the Jones Library Capital Campaign appealing for $1.1 million in federal grant funds.  Addressed to U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Edward Markey, Griesemer highlighted the supermajority of councilors who voted to fund the library renovation and expansion project, and that Amherst’s residents, by an “overwhelming 65-35% margin” voted to confirm the decision.  She further pointed out that the library project promises to address social justice, achieve necessary repairs, and support Amherst’s climate action priorities.

Griesemer mentioned a question she had received from a resident asking whether the federal money would offset the Town’s share of the project or the Friends of the Jones’ share.  She answered that the purpose was to help the Friends fundraising committee meet their goal which has increased due to rising building costs.

The letter was signed on behalf of the Amherst Town Council, although it had not, according to councilor Elisha Walker, been seen or endorsed by a vote of the council.  Several councilors questioned whether the Town shouldn’t be the beneficiary of federal funds rather than the private Friends Capital Campaign which has already approved a Memorandum of Agreement to raise all necessary funds beyond the $15.8 million committed by the Town, and which is backed up by the Library’s $9 million endowment.  Griesemer reiterated that there will be no more money coming from either the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) or from the Town.

Councilor Jenifer Taub remarked on the unfairness of the MBLC, the agency that awards library construction grants, holding municipalities “to a budget and square footage that was set before the pandemic.” Town Manager Paul Bockelman responded that the MBLC is under financial constraints, too, but said that he would check in with the library director to see if a more formal request might be beneficial.

In a FY23 Budget presentation earlier in the meeting, Amherst Finance Director Sean Mangano described funding sources for the library’s portion of the Capital Improvement Program.  Stabilization reserves will cover a $500,000 payment for the first year of library debt.  A $100,000 escalation reserve has also been set aside in case capital projects come in more expensive than previously anticipated.

MBLC Permits 3400 Square Foot Reduction In Size Of Renovated Library
Ellen Anselone, Principal of Finegold Alexander Architects, discussed potential library project cost saving measures at a recent Design Subcommittee meeting.  She stated she did not expect that the MBLC would allow further reduction of the size of the renovation/expansion because “we’ve already reduced it, so they’ve been flexible with us to this point.”  She was apparently referring to a 3462 sq. foot reduction noted in the February 2021 update to the project budget.  The document’s originally projected building size of 64,758 sq. feet has been revised down to 61,296 sq. feet.

At the May 1 Library Open House, Trustee and Building Committee member Alex Lefebvre described the size reduction as “sustainability driven.” She noted that plans to implement geothermal heating and cooling have been abandoned due to limitations of the Jones Library grounds.  Sustainability Committee member Todd Holland confirmed that the project would be pursuing air source heating and cooling instead.

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