Council concerned about town’s share
A new Winthrop library is probably three years away from reality, but the Town Council is already looking at how the town will deal with additional maintenance costs for a larger building.
At its meeting last week, the council reviewed current costs and some projected figures for maintenance costs the town would absorb, from both Town Clerk Michelle Gaines and from representatives of Friends of the Winthrop Library (FOWL), the nonprofit group that is spearheading construction of the new facility.
The new library will be built on a .81-acre parcel purchased by the town, on White Avenue near Little Star Montessori School. FOWL will turn the library over to the town of Winthrop when completed. The North Central Regional Library (NCRL) system, of which the Winthrop library is a part, will provide furnishings, staff and equipment for the new building, as well as a reimbursement for maintenance of the portion of the building devoted to library use. Plans now call for groundbreaking in 2020 and completion in 2022.
Current plans, subject to revision, call for a 7,300-square-foot building – reduced from earlier projections of around 8,000 square feet – that would include a 6,000-square-foot library area, connected by a hallway to a 1,300-square foot public use space that would be the town’s responsibility. The library portion could be closed off when not in operation, but the public space (including restrooms) would be available for a variety of activities.
At last week’s meeting, Gaines presented some figures based on current maintenance costs at the existing library on Highway 20, a small building that was previously a visitor information center. The maintenance cost is about $13,400 a year, or $6.57 per square foot of maintained space, with the NCRL reimbursement covering $3.50 of that and the town $3.07 (about $6,300), Gaines said.
FOWL’s projections, based on comparing maintenance costs at other buildings and expectations for how the new library will be constructed, estimate that the town’s contribution would increase by approximately double, but its per-square-foot costs would drop to around $1.76 in part because NCRL’s reimbursement will increase to $3.75 per square foot in 2020.
Council member Bill McAdow said he would not want to see the town’s finances stretched to accommodate the new building, and that he’s wary of “hidden costs.” He noted that many of the library’s users won’t be town residents.
That’s already the case, Mayor Sally Ranzau pointed out, as the library’s NCRL service area includes the entire upper valley north of the school complex. FOWL has made the case that the new building will be a community asset for the whole valley.
Margo Peterson Aspholm, one of the architects for the new building, told the council that the library will be constructed with energy-saving features. She said the new building’s utility costs per square feet will be less than the existing building, which doesn’t have energy-saving features.
FOWL vice-chair Bruce Honsinger told the council that FOWL won’t go away when the library is completed, but will instead likely transition to an administrative function to help the town manage the public meeting spaces.
“FOWL will continue to be involved,” Honsinger said.
Honsinger noted that “we are a demonstration project” for NCRL because of the unique process involving the nonprofit and the town.
FOWL estimates that the building’s costs will not exceed $4.5 million. The state Legislature’s recently adopted capital budget includes $2 million to support the new library’s construction; most of the rest is expected to be raised through private donations.
The existing library was always intended to be a temporary site. With less than 1,200 square feet, the library has no room for expansion and is often crowded, particularly for special events. Although small, the Winthrop library has the highest per-capita usage in the NCRL system.