Jones Library Treasurer: Expansion Project’s Risks to Town No Longer Acceptable


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Outgoing Jones Library Trustees Treasurer Bob Pam, who will be resigning his post because he is moving out of Amherst, read a prepared statement at the Jones Trustees meeting on May 13, suggesting that the library’s demolition/expansion project is no longer viable and stating the “odds on the project and the risks are no longer acceptable.” He called for the pursuit of building repairs instead.

Pam’s full statement follows.

Statement on The Library Expansion/Demolition by Outgoing Jones Trustee Treasurer Bob Pam
I don’t know whether the project will proceed in the end. The town manager will decide how to balance the benefits of the future project with the risks to the town and library to evaluate the financial risks. 

I have been looking at the capital campaign’s results since the Town Council approval to go forward last December. My estimate of the project costs in December was 46 million dollars. At that level, 7 million dollars in new money had to be raised by the library beyond the pledges, receipts, and anticipated value of grants and sales of tax credits reported. Then, the bulk was to come from the community campaign, consisting of individual and institutional supporters with ties to Amherst and the Pioneer Valley. Now, the estimate based on the single actual bid adds 7 million dollars more to that fundraising goal. If costs can be reduced, I can imagine the additional cost coming down to 4 or 5 million dollars, but the total remains at 12 million dollars or more to be raised.

Prior to that point the campaign had enormous success in lining up institutional funding sources to fund the project. I know that the staff there are continuing to seek such funding, but I don’t know of any large contributors in the wings.

I hope that the leaders of the campaign will inform us now of anything hopeful on that front. However, the local efforts have been disappointing. From December 1, 2023, through May 1, 2024, cash gifts of $825,000 have been received, but pledges were thereby reduced by $396,000. Of these sums $250,000 came from the pledge by Amherst College which I understand is an annual pledge. So a total of $429,000 in new funds has been raised in the 5 months since the project was approved: a surge in the month of December, then lesser amounts since then. As I see it, the campaign would have to raise 2.5 to 3.5 million dollars per year for the library to be able to borrow enough to cover any balance within the timeframe set up for this project, and with loan payments that would not reduce the draw against the endowment below an acceptable level. This is at least twice the annual goal I had thought possible last November.

I believe that the odds on the project and the risks are no longer acceptable.

If the project cannot go forward, we revert to improvements within the current building shell and footprint. The idea of looking at creative options for doing so were rejected while the expansion project was live and fundraising was ongoing. I believe we can and should start alternative planning at this point. It won’t insult the project architects or undermine the capital campaign. I won’t be here for the decisions that will be made on these questions, but I will put in my 2 cents.

It will take a year to start upgrading the heating sources and piping once the reviews, design bidding and permitting are considered. I suggest putting an industrial scale heat pump system on the ground floor. We’re using part of what is now a problematic glass atrium roof that needs replacement anyway. The piping changes are needed in any case. Much of the design work in the specifications for the HVAC and fire suppression systems have already been done for the expansion project. Any backyard space required will be less than would have been used for the larger project. I have advocated for heat pumps for a long time for the Woodbury Room and the special collections, each of which has different needs than the rest of the library in terms of climate or hours. Each space is self-contained, and, I believe, small enough for units readily available at reasonable cost and eligible for rebates. If it is economical to use just one system for the whole building, then, of course, that should be done instead. UMass maintains several programs and an institute that serves nonprofit entities which are developing energy efficient and sustainable remodels at low or no cost. As I understand it, these are not just student projects.

Some suggestions may be impractical, but we can use all the ideas we can get.

Without changing the floor plan, the collection weeding, space planning for the temporary move out, and the new building design work can help the library reconsider how some spaces can be repurposed. Other people will need to work with library staff on how to best use the current physical layout. Internal structural design changes will clearly be limited and probably delayed by 5 years or more while other capital projects move forward. When additional library work is considered, I hope that the boiler room will be gone and available and I would like to see two single unit bathrooms on the first floor, probably behind the reference area.

The library will still be a wonderful and beloved home of community education, entertainment, and activity for our town. Unite around what it does, and can do, without useless bitterness.

Read More
Jones Library Trustees Reject Project Bids by Maria Kopicki (Amherst Indy)
Assessment of Jones Library Financial Statements Reveals Inaccuracies by Jeff Lee (Amherst Indy)
Cuppa Joe: Public Asks About Jones Library and Wildwood.  by Maura Keene (Amherst Indy)

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3 thoughts on “Jones Library Treasurer: Expansion Project’s Risks to Town No Longer Acceptable

  1. Thank you, Mr. Pam, for always keeping the best interests of Amherst town and the Jones Library in your consistently well-grounded approach to library renovations!
    Best wishes in your next endeavors!
    Deb j

  2. Bob Pam’s years of knowledgeable work as Treasurer of the the Jones Library Board of Trustees have been an inestimable civic contribution. As a former Trustee President, I wholeheartedly commend his invaluable post above to the current Board. .

    You deserve the Town’s unqualified thanks and gratitude, Bob! You have mine.

  3. Hear! Hear!
    If only others on the Board of Trustees (and Town Leaders) were as clear-minded, nonpartisan and pragmatic.
    Amherst has lost another good one. Best of luck Bob.

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