The Indy posed a series of questions concerning the fate of Jones Library expansion/demolition project to Town Manager Paul Bockelman on August 29. Bockelman sent the responses below (in purple) on September 16, 2022.
1) At the Jones Library Building Committee meeting last week (Aug. 23), Finance Director Sean Mangano indicated that the decision on whether or not to move forward with the building project, given the significant recent changes in cost estimates, rests with the town manager.
Do you agree with this assertion, that it is up to you to make the decision? If so, what is it based on (please be specific)? How and when will you communicate your decision and your process, and provide the relevant documentation to the public? If you aren’t responsible for the decision, who is?
This is an important project and careful consideration must be given to every step and stage of the project. The next phase of the project includes Design Development and Construction Bid Documents. Contracts are required to initiate these two phases. The Town Manager is the contracting authority for the Town, so the Town Manager must sign the contracts for the next phase of the project to move forward.
In short, the Town Manager ultimately is responsible for deciding as contracting authority. The decision to continue into design development is contingent upon two things:
1) An amendment to the MOA with the Jones Trustees that backstops any funds spent by the Town between design development and bidding. This amendment may be a direct repayment from the endowment or an investment of endowment funds into facility improvements. This amendment mitigates risk to the Town in light of the significant cost increases.
2) A fundraising plan that is feasible in the opinion of the Town Manager. This plan shall show a timeline for raising the full amount required from the Trustees with annual benchmarks and milestone benchmarks to judge progress.
If the decision is made to continue to bidding. The determination whether to sign construction contracts and proceed will be based on:
- A positive vote from the Town Council increasing the debt authorization to cover at a minimum all eligible costs of the project (if required by MBLC)
- A determination made by the Town Manager that the project financing is sound, fundraising is on track, and there is manageable risk to the Town or the endowment.
2) The total project cost estimates as well as design/features that would be necessary for the amended project significantly change the proposal that Town Council and voters (2021) approved for town spending.
Given the extensive changes, is the previous MOU between the town and the library moot? In consideration of the changes, should there be a new town council vote?
The Memorandum of Agreement between the Town and the Trustees is still active. Given the new circumstances, an amendment to the original MOA is being reviewed, as discussed at the Finance Committee.
3) The library trustees voted to pledge the entire library endowment to cover increased costs if needed, but the library relies on its endowment for the operating budget and capital expenses.
By pledging the entire endowment, might the trustees be in breach of their fiduciary duties? And if they significantly deplete or even exhaust the endowment, will the town absorb the costs that the endowment has been responsible for? Is that “Plan B”?
The Trustees are making decisions in the best interests of the Jones Library. I am confident that each Trustee will act in the best interests of the library. The Town has been clear that it will not make up any loss in operating support from the endowment.
4) The cost to move forward on the project until the bid phase (anticipated for June 2023) is estimated at ~$1.4M in designer and OPM fees.
If a decision not to proceed is made between now and then, who will pay for the costs incurred? Would the town assume some of it, if needed? What is the plan?
This would be the subject of an amendment to the existing MOA. Right now, the Town is incurring minimal additional costs while a decision is being made. The delays caused by the lawsuits and petitions were much more significant, creating delays that have clearly increased the cost of the project. That being said, ultimate project costs are rising due to cost escalation should the project move forward. Costs to date are the responsibility of the Town (not MBLC, not fundraising). If the Town decides to advance to bidding, the costs would be allocated per an MOU amendment.
5) The library director has labeled several potential funding sources as “in-hand” or “100% guaranteed”.
Have these claims been verified? By whom? Whose responsibility is it? Do you take responsibility for it? Please share the relevant documentation if it exists.
This is a question better directed to the Library Director.
6) The presentation to the Finance Committee and Town Council regarding the status of the four capital projects last July assumed the now-outdated library project cost estimate of $36.3M.
Will there be an updated public presentation about this, including how the new cost of the library will affect the other capital projects? If so, who will make the presentation and when will it be made?
The contribution from the Town to the Jones Library has not changed. Town staff will be updating the Town Council on the financial status of the four capital projects in the coming months. If the Town’s share remains $15.8 million, the only impact to the model is the debt service costs related to larger temporary borrowings for the amount to be fundraised.