What exactly is the true cost of the Jones Library renovation and expansion project? I’m starting to get the distinct feeling that I am watching shells being moved around, and the more I watch, the more confused I get.
In 2020, the Jones was approved for $1 million in Community Preservation Act (taxpayer) money to help fund the construction of a new Special Collections quarters. In May of 2023, I was surprised to read that Special Collections was now just one component of a $5 million “Humanities Center,” which had just received a $1 million “challenge grant” from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
This was the first time that I had heard of a “Humanities Center.” This raises a number of questions as to where this all fits into the context of funding for the project.
1. Was the $5 million Humanities Center part of the original funding plan approved by the Town Council in 2021, or was it developed later? Documents submitted as part of the NEH application are all dated in the fall of 2022; a quick search of the Jones Library building-project website shows no mention of a “Humanities Center” before the announcement of the grant in May 2023, leading one to believe that this may be a project that was not yet envisioned when funding was approved in 2021.
2. If that is the case, is this $5 million part of the original cost estimates, or will it need to be added to them? And since this is a challenge grant, will the $4 million that will need to be raised by the Jones be in addition to the original amount specified (now at about $14 million, I believe), or will it need to be added to that figure?
3. If the challenge is not met, how will this affect construction of the “Humanities Center,” and of the overall renovation and expansion?
And we are now hearing that the Jones will ask the Town Council for an additional $10 million in funding, even as the total building costs remain unknown. The sum of $10 million is likely about half of the amount needed to build a new fire station – an actual NEED that has been documented for decades. But if this amount is approved for the Jones by the Town Council, a new fire station will once again be put off way down the road (and let’s not even mention “roads”).
The Jones spends while Amherst taxpayers pay, and will keep on paying, all the while being told that this is something that absolutely must be done for their benefit and quality of life.
Denise Barberet is now a resident of Chicopee, where a new 34,000 SF public library was opened in 2004. Its cost was $9.3 million. It is centrally located, with plenty of parking, and though it is new, it feels like a lovely old library.