Indy Seeks Answers: When Will Town Decide On Fate Of Jones Library Expansion Project?


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A lot of conflicting information is swirling around concerning when the Town Council will vote on whether to move forward with the Jones Demolition/Expansion Project. Will it be before — or after — it has a reasonably  accurate prediction of the costs involved?

At the Jones Library Building Committee meeting of March 16, 2023, the committee discussed the need to begin moving books to temporary facilities soon so that the library site will be ready for demolition and construction, should the town decide to proceed with the project. Two weeks ago, Jeff Lee reported in the Indy:

“Portions of the Jones operation will be moved to Research Park Drive off Old Belchertown Road, three spaces in the North Amherst Mill District, the former Boys and Girls Club on Cottage St. near the high school, and the two branch libraries — the Monson Memorial Library in South Amherst and the newly renovated North Amherst Library. The plan is still being formalized and awaits approval by the library trustees. The cost of designing, fitting out, and renting the interim spaces is estimated to be $552,350. The project has budgeted $150,000 for moving and $500,000 for operating out of the temporary locations for 24 months.” [Will] Fernandez [from Colliers Project Leaders] confirmed that the total cost for the current plan exceeds the budget.

“To meet the requirements of a $13.8 million grant awarded by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), all Jones Library materials and programs must be made available during the construction period.

“According to the current project schedule, designing, soliciting bids and contracting for the interim spaces is to start at the beginning of this May, with build out scheduled for October. During the meeting’s public comment period, Library Trustee Treasurer Bob Pam noted that the library move is scheduled to begin several months before a final determination by the Town Council on whether the project is financially feasible.  The public has been told that this decision will be made in February 2024 after renovation-expansion construction bids have been received and costs better nailed down.”

Town Manager Paul Bockelman responded in that meeting, “We don’t want to be signing contracts [related to clearing the way for demolition/construction] that we’re not going to fulfill, so we want the council to take its action or get the final approval as early as we possibly can,” implying that a final decision by the Town Council on whether to move forward with the library project needs to be made soon.

The Indy asked Bockelman and Town Council President Lynn Griesemer, in an April 3 email, whether a proposal to greenlight the project will be brought before the Town Council soon.   Griesemer responded as follows:

“The Town/Library Trustees will receive another reconciled cost estimate at the end of May, and again in October/November 2023.  Construction bids are presently scheduled to be submitted no earlier than January 2024.   The Trustees have provided fundraising updates on a periodic basis. 

At this point, there is no specific date schedule for additional Town Council Action.  The present understanding is that any additional vote will not occur until we have the firm number based on the construction bids.”

We have not received a response from Bockelman.

Does The Town Have An Unofficial Agreement With The Jones Trustees To Greenlight The Demolition/Expansion Project?
A few days before the library’s building committee met, at the Jones Library Trustees Budget Committee meeting of March 14,, Library Director Sharron Sharry claimed that there is an agreement between the trustees and the town that once the Friends have raised $7M, the town will move forward with the project. Trustees Treasurer Bob Pam disputed the existence of such an agreement but Sharry stood her ground. “It’s been in charts, it’s been in meetings, no, it’s out there,” she insisted.

Griesemer responded to our query about Sharry’s claim about an agreement  as follows:
The Jones Library Trustees have an agreement with the Town.  This link is to the first agreement: Memorandum-to-TC-re-MOU (  The amendment to that agreement is attached. (see below) 

We have not received any response from Bockelman.

.Seeking Answers To Critical Questions
The following questions were posed to Bockelman and Griesemer in the April 3 email and as of this writing have not been sufficiently addressed:

1) When will the town vote on whether to move forward with the Jones expansion?  

2) Will the Jones expansion project come up for a vote before the final bids for the project are in? (Final bids are expected in January, within interim estimates expected sometime next month.)  

3) If a vote happens this summer, how will you justify greenlighting a project without knowing the final costs, especially given the recent volatility of construction costs, interest rates and financial markets? 

4 )Is there an agreement between the trustees and the town to proceed with the Jones project once the Friends of the Jones Library have met the target of $7 million in fundraising?

5) If there isn’t such an agreement as referred to above, why does Library Director Sharon Sharry assert that there is, and if the claim is not correct, and given the inflammatory potential of such a claim, why has no one, except Bob Pam, made any effort to correct it? 

) What kind of financial guarantees, if any, will the town require from the Friends of the Jones?

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5 thoughts on “Indy Seeks Answers: When Will Town Decide On Fate Of Jones Library Expansion Project?

  1. After receiving Griesemer’s responses on April 6, I wrote back to her, thanking her for responding and noting that I thought that she had avoided addressing the concerns that I had raised with my questions.

    I wrote “….Paul said at the Building Committee meeting on March 16 that the decision on whether to move forward with the Jones project needs to be made soon in order to sign contracts necessary to move the books and create the space for them – work that the trustees and Colliers say ought to begin in May. So while we already know that no specific date has been scheduled to greenlight the project, it sure sounds like an earlier decision is being planned. If that’s not the case it would help to state firmly and convincingly that the council and/or the manager are committed to waiting until final bids are in as was the original plan.

    Ditto with Sharry Sharry’s statements. Bob Pam has pointed out that her claims of an agreement with the town that the project will proceed if the trustees raise $7M is not in the MOU. Yet she asserts that such an agreement is in place. “

  2. Item 5 of the Amended MOA mentions exercising “remedies set forth in Section 7 of the MOA” in the event the Library fails to “pay $1,800,000 to the Town in full by the Building Repair Due Date” — can anyone please refresh our collective memory about Section 7 of the original MOA?

  3. How would such loan (principal+interest) be repaid, and who backs the loan if Jones Library Inc. fails to repay (sounds like “robbing Peter to pay Paul”)?

  4. Rob – While the Budget Committee has been doing due diligence, it’s unclear if the Library Trustees will need to take out a loan, or if they do, how it might be structured and what it might mean to library operations. Much will depend on the fate of the building project.

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