Construction expected to begin soon
The ceremonial groundbreaking for Winthrop’s new public library last week keeps the complicated project on track for construction to begin this summer.
The groundbreaking ceremony, at the new library’s site on White Avenue, was coordinated by Friends of the Winthrop Public Library (FOWL), the nonprofit group that will build the facility and then turn it over to the town of Winthrop.
The groundbreaking event on June 11 followed a June 9 decision by the FOWL board of directors to proceed with the library project. The board had considered the possibility of a delay because not all the necessary funding was firmly in place.
But FOWL board President Shannon Polson said the organization secured its contract with the state for access to a $2 million grant that will support the project.
Also, FOWL is closer to completing its private fundraising drive for the remainder of the library’s construction costs, Polson said.
The state grant was awarded in July 2019 and was included the 2019-2021 legislative budget. In order to spend the state funds before the budget period expires, construction must begin this summer.
“FOWL has raised over 90% of the funding necessary to both access the state grant and complete construction of the library building,” a FOWL press release said.
Earlier, the Winthrop Town Council agreed to waive a substantial portion of the town’s construction-related fees for the new library. That action helped FOWL close its funding gap.
The organization estimates it needs an additional $375,000 to complete its private fundraising. Nearly 400 donors have contributed so far. “FOWL’s plans were impacted by the coronavirus crisis, and it was not able to solicit the entire community’s participation in fundraising,” the press release said.
“While we have a shortfall in funding, we are highly confident of the community’s generosity to help when and if they can,” FOWL Executive Director Jill Sheley said. “COVID-19 certainly hampered FOWL’s plans to engage the entire community for support. The board is sensitive to the financial hardship felt by so many this spring, so we postponed asking for donations until there are signs of economic recovery.”
The library will be built on a .81-acre parcel property purchased by the Town of Winthrop at the intersection of White Avenue and Norfolk Road. FOWL subsequently acquired private funds to purchase an adjacent .92-acre parcel to expand the area available for the building, parking, and landscaping.
The 7,300-square-foot completed building will be turned over to the town of Winthrop. It will include community space that will be maintained by the town. Opening is scheduled for early 2022. The building is being designed by Johnston Associates and PBW Architects, and will replace the existing cramped facility in Winthrop. Impel Construction, which has offices in Stanwood and Twisp, is the general contractor for the library.
No additional taxes will be required to build or operate the new library. Town residents currently pay a library district assessment which goes to the North Central Regional Library (NCRL) system, of which the Winthrop library is a part. NCRL will provide all the furnishing and equipment for the new building, as well as maintenance.
Last week’s groundbreaking ceremony at the new library site did not include invited guests because of coronavirus restrictions. Attending were Sheley, Polson, Winthrop Mayor Sally Ranzau, and former Winthrop librarian Sally Portman (State Rep. Mike Steele had planned to attend but could not due to a last-minute scheduling conflict). They were seated at least 6 feet apart, and each spoke briefly about the project. The event was recorded on video that will be posted at http://www.winthroplibraryfriends.org.
According to the press release, FOWL expects to receive a building permit this week from the Town of Winthrop. The organization is also finalizing its contract with Impel Construction. Site work will begin this month with fencing, installation of construction trailers, and excavation. Foundations will be poured in July, conditions permitting.
The library site includes several clumps of poppies left from when there was a home on the property (it was burned in a training exercise for Okanogan County Fire District 6 several years ago). FOWL is taking steps to remove and transplant the poppies so they can be saved and integrated into the new library’s landscape, according to the release.
Portman recognized for 34 years of service
At last week’s ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Winthrop public, Sally Portman was presented with a “memory book” commemorating her 34 years as Winthrop’s librarian. Portman retired at the end of March, after the library had been closed under the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
The “thank you” gift, prepared by Friends of the Winthrop Public Library (FOWL) and presented by Winthrop Mayor Sally Ranzau, includes photos, other memorabilia, and congratulatory notes from about 60 people.
Portman became the Winthrop librarian in the spring of 1986. Her first library was housed in downtown Winthrop, between the public bathrooms and the town hall. She eventually moved the library from downtown to a vacant classroom in Little Star Montessori School, then to its current location across from the ballfield.