Jones Trustees Offer to Cover Library Redesign Costs



Trustees Approve Taking $550,700 from Endowment in Amended Agreement with Town
At the June 10 Jones Library Board of Trustees meeting, the four trustees present, Austin Sarat, Lee Edwards, Tamson Ely and Farah Ameen, voted to offer a third amendment to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Trustees and the Town of Amherst that spells out the building project funding obligations by both sides.

The text was not listed in the public meeting packet. Board President Austin Sarat read aloud the proposed amendment:

  1. The library agrees to pay the cost of architectural fees currently estimated at $550,700 in order to rebid the project in the fall of 2024. This amount will be added to the library share of the project cost.
  2. If the project doesn’t move forward in the fall of 2024 the town will not need to return these funds to the library and these funds will not be applied towards Library repairs.
  3. All other provisions of the agreements remain in force.

With the resignation of Trustee Treasurer Robert Pam taking effect at the beginning of June, it was left to Library Director Sharon Sharry to assess the impact of the $550,700 commitment to the endowment and library operations.

Sharry reported that the endowment was valued at $9,259,871.78 on June 6, and that the library relies on an annual draw of $300,000 to maintain level services.  A draw of $351,501 was projected in the FY24 library budget.

Spending $550,700 of the endowment on redesign fees would leave the current endowment valued at $8,7 million.  Applying the approved draw rate of 4% would yield a withdrawal of $348,000 for library operations.

“This is not a a permanent reduction,” said Sharry.  “The capital campaign will continue to raise money and we will make the endowment whole again,” she assured the trustees.

“A reduction of this small size … it doesn’t actually have much of an effect at all,” Sharry said.

Board President Austin Sarat pointed out that the $550,700 would be added to an already existing obligation by the library to spend $1.8 million toward building repairs within three years if the project is canceled.  He suggested that the library could take out a bank loan at that time if the endowment were insufficient.

Not mentioned was a library commitment recorded in MOA Amendment #2 that requires the Library to contribute $13,822,518 toward the total project cost of $46,139,800 should the project go forward, on top of the newly pledged redesign amount. 

Town Councilor Cathy Schoen has questioned whether recently accepted design changes which include deep cuts to sustainability and historic preservation, and the use of inferior construction materials, may turn off potential donors.  The Jones Library Capital Campaign remains $7 million short of its fundraising goal.

Library project funding sources as of June 1, 2024.  Source:

Capital Campaign Community Gifts Slow
In the month of May the JLCC reported receiving a corporate donation of $25,000.  Gifts from the Community Campaign totaled $1838 for the month.  This is down from Community Campaign receipts of $103,235 reported on May 1.

The Capital Campaign paid personnel expenses of $12,084 in May.

Capital Campaign Results for May 2024.  Source:

JLCC Co-chair Lee Edwards told the Board of Trustees that that the capital campaign is starting to have conversations with donors about whether they would be willing to redirect their gifts and pledges toward repairs should the renovation-expansion not move forward.

Edwards noted that it is hard to predict which funds would be allowed to be redirected, but she pointed out that “some money that individuals have given as opposed to pledged is overwhelmingly likely to remain, and people are overwhelmingly likely to say the library should decide how they want to use it.”

This revelation did not sit well with Trustee President Austin Sarat and he made an effort to reframe the trustees’ position. “We’ve asked people to contribute to a project,” he said. “They may or may not leave funds for the disposition of the library. I think from our point of view we should plan as if they’re not going to,” he advised.

Director Offers Outline of a Plan B
Director Sharry and Library Facilities Supervisor George Hicks-Richards have been tasked with developing a plan to catch up on repairs and deferred maintenance should the full renovation-expansion not go forward.  Sharry has recommended a schedule for completing annual building repairs and improvements.

“We will go through the JCPC [Joint Capital Planning Committee] process just like we were doing up until the building project,” explained Sharry.

Sharry envisions completing the work over the next eight fiscal years.

In FY25 she recommends hiring an architect to conduct a feasibility study for replacing the HVAC system, replacing the fire alert system and abating asbestos in the Children’s Room.

Sharry raised some cautions.

  • An OPM is needed to oversee work costing more than $1.5 million.
  • Interim space will be needed if the work is expected to last several months.
  • If scheduled work will cost more than 30% of the assessed value of the building — $23 million in FY24 – ADA accessibility upgrades may be required.
Circulation trends over past year: North Amherst Library +101%; Munson Library +15%;
Jones Library -10%.  Source:

Outgoing Jones Treasurer. Bob Pam had a dramatically different take on alternatives to the expansion. After declaring the expansion project no longer fiscally viable, Pam offered a vision of a repair only option, suggesting that the town already had purchased designs from Finegold Alexander Archotects for much of the necessary HVAC work and that with work previously done, money in hand, and potential energy credits, he felt that the HVAC, roof repair, and fire suppression could be done at a much more modest expense than the trustees were suggesting and without dramatic disruptions to library services.

Keeping the Library Project Alive: A Timeline
The fate of the now more than $50 million Jones Library renovation expansion has been buffeted by a flurry of decisions in recent weeks.  Here is a chronology of recent events. Watch for a comprehensive chronology of the Jones Demolition/Expansion project in the Indy in the coming weeks.

April 26 – Amherst receives one construction bid for the Jones Library renovation-expansion that is more than $7 million over budget, representing a total project cost of $53 million. Lone Library Project Bid Soars $7 Million over Budget.

April 29 – Trustee Treasurer Robert Pam tells Town Council that costly expansion should be abandoned with effort and funds raised put into repairs. Jones Library Expansion Project on Hold. Town Manager and Public Respond to High Cost Estimate

April 29 – Trustee Treasurer Robert Pam tells the Jones Trustees that he sees no hope that the Jones capital campaign will be able to raise the funds that they have promised to the town. Opinion: I See No Reason to Hope That the Jones Expansion Project Will Become Affordable

May 7 – Town Manager Paul Bockelman tells Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) that he has been informed by the designers and Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) that rebidding in the fall might generate more interest and lower bids. Town Manager to Explore Moving $53M Library Project Forward.

May 13 –Trustees vote to reject the single construction bid.  Jones Library Trustees Reject Project Bids.

May 20 – The Library Trustees ask the Town Manager to request that the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) extend a state grant contractual deadline to begin construction by six months, enabling a rebid of the project.  Library Trustees Keep Expansion Project on Life Support.

May 20 – After multiple rebuffs by Town Council President Lynn Griesemer, councilors concerned about rising costs and financial risk to the town succeed in having a library discussion placed on the agenda of the June 3 council meeting.  Councilors Press for More Information on Jones Library Project

May 24 – The Jones Library Buildings and Facilities Committee begins developing a limited building repair plan should the full renovation-expansion prove untenable.  HVAC and Fire Suppression Top Priorities for Jones Library Repairs.

May 31 – Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) recommend a set of “value management” design compromises aimed at reducing cost.  Proposed cuts include gutting historic interior millwork and eliminating green building measures.  FAA estimates redesign costs in the $800,000 range.  Designers Propose Cuts to Library Sustainability and Historic Preservation

June 3 – A motion by Councilor Cathy Schoen to recommend that the Town Manager halt the library project failed passage by a Town Council vote of 6-7.  A follow-up motion to disallow sustainability and historic cuts in any rebidding was tabled for two weeks after a procedural maneuver by Councilor Pat DeAngelis.  Council Narrowly Defeats Move to End Jones Library Expansion Project.

June 6 – Arguing that sustainability and historic preservation cuts do not affect the library’s program support, the MBLC voted unanimously to grant a six-month extension to allow rebidding.  Six-Month Extension Granted to Jones Library Expansion Project.

June 7 – The JLBC votes to accept all sixteen proposed FAA value management design reductions.  Building Committee Approves Deep Cuts to Library Design.

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1 thought on “Jones Trustees Offer to Cover Library Redesign Costs

  1. The Capital Campaign would have you believe they have raised $9,641,433, but have they really?
    They’ve spent $430,487 of that on fundraising expenses, money they will have to raise again.
    They’ve given the Town just $1.6m of the $2.5m they promised to hand over by the end of January 2024. They still have not come up with the other $900,000, four months later.

    They have promised to pay the Town another $4m by next January 2025 but there is zero evidence they will be able to do that.

    To raise $550,700 for redesign costs, they have to take it out of the endowment as there is not enough cash in the Capital Campaign coffers to pay for it. Pledges don’t pay bills.

    With the higher project cost, even if they get a lower bid in November and can do the project for $50 million, the Library’s Share is now at least $18.7 million. Does anyone think that is remotely achievable?

    What happens when they forfeit, and the Town has borrowed 40 or more million to pay for construction, and is liable for paying back the principal and all the interest for the next 20 years? Those debt repayments will drain our capital budget, squeezing operating budgets, and leaving nothing for the fire station or DPW, and much less for roads and sidewalks.

    Councilors: Please stop this project now. I see no chance that the Town won’t be left with a $33 million bill, plus interest. Do you?

    The alternative is a fraction of the expansion cost to the Town. For less than $6 million [using figures from the bids and previous estimates], they could address all the MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing), replace the Atrium skylight and the Roof, and address Hazardous Materials.
    Of that $6 million, the Library pays the first $1.8m per the agreement with the Town, Lee Edwards said much of the ($2.3m) in gifts to the Capital Campaign will be available for repairs, and the Town can seek $1 million in Community Preservation Act funds. That leaves a very small cost to the Town’s capital budget – perhaps as little as $1 million.

    As difficult as it may be to accept after so many years that the expansion plan is not a runner, it is time to accept that the repair plan is the way to go, and that it could be achieved in the immediate future for a relatively small cost to the Town.

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