ROCKPORT — Cost estimates for the new Rockport library construction project came in over-budget by $750,000, which has resulted in the town select board adjusting course. Instead of placing a $1.5 million public bond proposal to help fund the project before voters at June Town Meeting, the board will now delay that until November.
Meanwhile, the design group, consisting of engineers, architects, library staff and town personnel, will begin to trim or, as one Library Committee member described it, “nip and tuck,” design features.
And, the fundraising committee, which is now just gearing up to appeal to private donors for sizable contributions, will have to decide whether to expand their own goals, from a $1.5 million target to possibly a $2.5 million target.
The Select Board also removed $200,000 from the 2018-2019 municipal budget that was to be used, in combination with Maine Department of Transportation funds, for rebuilding the intersection of Limerock, Union, and Central streets with Russell Ave. — all was to be part of the library construction project. That money was also to be used to build a 10-space parking lot on the edge of Memorial Park, with site work to begin this year.
The design group is not an official town committee, but it includes those close to the library construction process, and who are working with Rockport architect Steve Smith and engineer Will Gartley to produce designs to put before the voter for approval of the expenditure. The group also includes two select board members, Ken McKinley and Doug Cole.
Last week, they all met to review numbers received by the town’s potential construction manager, Peter Pelletier, president of the South Portland-based Ledgewood Construction. That company had been retained by the town to help manage the library preconstruction and construction details.
At the meeting, the design group heard that the $3 million building project had a price tag closer to $3.75 million.
But that figure did not include what Smith called the “soft costs” — engineering, architectural fees, furniture and fixtures. He told the board at its March 26 meeting that the with all of those necessary costs, the library project potentially carries a price tag of close to $4 million.
He said there is little chance that, “we are ever going to get close to $2.4 million construction budget” as was originally envisioned by the town with the $3 million price tag.
Last winter, the Select Board had directed the designers to take a previous $4 million budget (as proposed by previous architects Reed and Company) and a 9,400 square foot building and reduce it all by 25 percent, to a $3 million project and 7,000 square-foot building. That directive came from the Rockport Select Board after lengthy debates held in 2017 and a citizen survey that indicated the town wanted a new library, but not a costly one, nor overly large.
But the construction management observations, even from February, noted the cost of a new library at its 7,000 square feet would still hover around $4 million.
The Select Board was chastised March 26 by the Library Committee. Those members — Heaven Bartlett, Cheryl Liechty and Stephanie Kumble, asked why they had not been told that the price estimates, even discussed in January, were jockeying toward $4 million, instead of $3 million.
Members of the Select Board said they had committed to a $3 million project — half of which was to be funded by the taxpayer, if so approved, with the other half to be funded by private donations — and were waiting for definitive numbers to be produced by Ledgewood.
But Gartley told the Select Board that the time period for Ledgewood to produce those numbers was compressed, from February to mid-March. He said that the numbers could be refined more, and other factors considered.
That includes pricing an asphalt roof over a metal roof. But the metal roof would better accommodate solar panels.
It also includes not building out the lower level, but the lower level is integral to the overall functional design.
It includes possibly using clapboards instead of bricks, but the bricks present less longterm maintenance, while clapboards need more frequent attention.
Other possible cost-cutting moves could include removing some of the landscape design elements such as the terraces and patios, arches and retaining walls. Or removing the radiant flooring and going with a traditional wood-framed flooring.
Library Committee member Kumble questioned whether the town would end up being, “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
Smith agreed with her, saying that by reducing the quality and longevity of materials or features, the longterm costs could be more.
“It goes back to the town office,” he said. “If you could have spent the money on a basement, that would have been money well spent.”
He was referencing the 1993 construction of the town office, when project overseers did not allow for a basement, a decision that resulted in a lack of space that the town office staff currently wishes it had.
Smith said, “We will have a shopping list of bites but have to be mindful not to pay the piper down the road.”
The Select Board is continuing with the library project, noting that citizens who are following the current process appreciate the preliminary renderings.
That’s a big step forward, said board Chairman Ken McKinley.
“We have to pull the reins back on the timing,” he said, referencing the bond vote, and construction.
Gartley said it may be two years before construction.
“The big thing is, we just need some time,” he said.
Town Manager Rick Bates said the size and layout of the building would not change, but savings would be found in the details.
“The commitment remains the same at $1.5 million,” he said.
Board member Doug Cole said: “I have taken a hard line on $3 million figure.”
But, he said his feeling has evolved and would be willing to negotiate for a higher library project price tag, given a robust fundraising effort.
He did not waver, however, from sticking with the $1.5 million bond proposal to lay before the citizens.
Joan Welsh and Bill Leone are leading the fundraising committee, which is beginning to plan for a campaign, McKinley said.
Going forward, the design group is to convene and begin creating a project cost reduction list.
“I choose to be optimistic with this,” said McKinley. “I think we will get it done.”
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