Letter: Jones Expansion is No Longer Affordable. It’s Time to Pivot to Repair and Renovate


Atrium in the Jones Library constructed as part of a 1993 renovation. The atrium, which leaks, is slated to be demolished under the new expansion plan. Photo: Art Keene.

The following letter was sent to the Amherst Town Council on May 30, 2024

Over the past several years we have watched with concern the town’s reporting on the escalating costs of the Jones Library demolition-expansion. The latest cost figure of $55 million for the demolition-expansion, which is 50% above the original estimate, is extravagant beyond words. As you know, the one and only bid on the project came in $7.2 million over budget, on top of the project already being $10 million above budget, which indicates just how far beyond reasonable this project is. Some in town are trying to explain away this escalation in cost, or even blame others for the increase and blindly hope that additional bids will somehow miraculously come in significantly lower in the Fall, but the writing is on the wall. 

This project was always too large and too expensive for our 17,000 year-round residents to fund. As you know, this is not the library project that some town residents initially supported because many of the key features have been dropped (value engineered out) to try to reduce costs. As you also know, Amherst has many unmet needs that we feel should take precedence over a larger library building — street and sidewalk re-paving, new South Amherst fire station, new DPW headquarters, etc. The Jones Library needs a complete renovation with a new HVAC system and replacement of the leaking atrium, but it does not need to be larger. We believe it is financially unwise to continue to push for a larger library “at all costs.” It’s time to end this divisive project and pivot to a more reasonable approach.

As Amherst taxpayers, we respectfully ask you to terminate the Jones Library expansion once and for all. The historic Jones Library is a town gem and instead of demolishing the library’s 1993 brick addition, we ask that the existing Jones Library building be fully renovated in a manner in which town residents can afford.

Peggy Matthews-Nilsen & Sigurd Nilsen

Peggy Matthews-Nilsen and Sigurd Nilsen are residents of Amherst’s District 5

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