Jones Library News Highlights For The Week Of May 15, 2023
Government Grants Leave Building Project Still Short
At the May 17 meeting of the Jones Library Board of Trustees, President Austin Sarat heaped high praise on officials instrumental in the award of a $1 million National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to build a Humanities Center on the library’s ground floor. At the same time, he described a meeting with Town Manager Paul Bockelman where all agreed that the library roof and HVAC system would be immediate repair priorities should a lack of funding prevent the project from moving forward.
Noting last week’s press event to announce the NEH award, Sarat declared, “It was heartening to hear our congressman so wholeheartedly endorse the renovation and expansion project. It was heartening to hear our state representative speaking powerfully and articulately in endorsing the renovation project. It was heartening to hear Councilor Anika Lopes talk about how important this project is in preserving our community history, and how important that will be in making the Jones Library even more than now a place where people from all walks of life feel that they belong.”
Trustee and Library Capital Campaign Co-chair Lee Edwards reported that as of May 1, the campaign has raised $5.8 million in grants and pledges toward a commitment of $16.5 million as its share of the total project cost. This total includes the $1 million federal grant and $11,888 in community pledges in the month of April.
The Jones Library Building Committee awaits an updated cost estimate expected in late May or early June which will indicate whether the total project cost has increased or decreased from its current estimate of $46.1 million. The Amherst Town Council has authorized borrowing $35.3 million, which leaves the Jones Library and its Capital Campaign to cover the shortfall.
The Trustees did not confirm the identity of the firms conducting the new construction cost estimate. The most recent “reconciled” estimate from last fall represents the average of estimates by Fennessy Consulting Services, hired by the project design firm, and Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB), hired independently by the Town. At that time the Fennessy estimate was $6.4 million lower than the RLB estimate.
Trustee Alex Lefebvre, Chair of the Buildings & Facilities Committee, proposed a motion aimed at ensuring that “Plan B” for repairs only that is being developed jointly with Town staff include appropriate sustainability features. She moved that
“The Board of Trustees direct the Library Director to request multiple options in the procurement request for engineering services relative to the replacement of the HVAC systems at the Jones Library, including but not limited to a system that would comply with the Town’s sustainability statement relative to municipal building projects and options for standalone systems where practical, such as for the Special Collections rooms and the Woodbury room.”
Trustee Treasurer Bob Pam, who helped draft the motion, explained that if rising costs or a fundraising shortfall prevent the larger “Plan A” project from moving forward, repair work needs to serve the library through the foreseeable future, and should be as sustainable and usable as possible.
Sarat pointed out that the Trustees have agreed to pay $1.8 million toward Plan B repairs and so should be able to determine how that money is spent.
Pam replied that roof repairs and HVAC replacement may well cost more than $1.8 million, with the Town paying a share of the expense.
Director to Explore Dennis Quaid Promotional Video
Library Director Sharon Sharry reported that she has been approached by a producer from the video production company Viewpoint. The representative proposed producing content promoting the value of the Jones Library that would be shown on Public Television. The package includes a 3–5-minute documentary introduced by actor Dennis Quaid.
Sharry believes that the Library Capital Campaign would cover the expense. A trustee suggested that the cost might be $30,000.
Sharry said that a promotional video that describes Jones Library’s offerings would be very useful. The Trustees voted unanimously to authorize the Director to continue discussions with Viewpoint.
In other library news, Trustee Tamson Ely, Chair of the Personnel, Planning & Policy Committee (PPP), received approval for changing the name of the Equity, Justice & Inclusion Subcommittee (EJI) to the Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Subcommittee (JEDI).