Public Comment: Continuing The Jones Project -A $1.8M Bet That Financial Climate Will Be Much Improved In 18 Months
The following public comment was made at the meeting of the Amherst Town Council on September 19, 2022
My name is Bob Pam. I live on Amity St. I am a Jones Library Trustee, but I am speaking for myself. I believe the risks to the Jones Library, based on current facts, make stopping the project the prudent choice. I understand that others may come to a different conclusion.
The Library Board and other project supporters argue that the financial risk will look very different in 16 months — affordable bids will come in, and new funding sources will materialize for this construction project. The proposal before you says that if you decide, when the bids are opened, that it is beyond our means and that the project shouldn’t continue, then either the Town or the Library will pay roughly $2.2 million of our own funds for the planning work done up to that point. Ending it now, we would pay about $400,000. So, the immediate question is a $1.8 million bet, and on a year and a half without upgrading anything at the Library, on the hope that it will all work out. I hope that proponents of advancing to that step will agree to having some or all of their contributions applied toward these costs if it comes to that.
As an individual resident of Amherst, I have been a pretty close observer of the project’s design evolution. The design incorporates spaces for all the requested functions, but other decisions are, in my opinion, problematic, practically and aesthetically. Floor to ceiling windows with their required framing seem illogical (and expensive) because library patrons will want to sit in front of and block their lower third, and the heat loss from these large north-facing windows will be maximized. In addition, to reduce cost, the saw tooth structures on the roof will be eliminated while the enormous flat skylight will remain, bringing possible leakage issues into our future, again. The value engineering exercise is leading toward acoustical ceiling tiles and exposed roof trusses and pipes, like a partially finished loft. To bring down costs further, the current plan does not finance some or all of the computers, furniture, solar panels and landscaping that I thought were included. Maybe the next round of fundraising would cover their costs, but I think it likely that some will appear in a future Town budget.
I supported the project last year, and I wish I could continue to do so. But I don’t.
Bob Pam is Treasurer of the Jones Library Board of Trustees