Rockport Select Board asks for specifics before releasing library funds
ROCKPORT — The Rockport Select Board heard presentations Jan. 8 by the Rockport Public Library design team and the Rockport Library Foundation on the progress of the construction timeline and fundraising efforts for the new $3.5 million structure. Findings from the workshop will be weighed by the Select Board prior to their Feb. 11 meeting, at which time board members will vote to whether or not to release $1.5 million in bond funds for the new library at 1 Limerock Street in Rockport Village.
Despite assurances from members of the design team that the construction schedule was “on target” and the fundraising campaign was “exactly where we should be,” members of the Select Board asked for specifics that included cost estimates, various elements of demolition and construction, and a timeline of activities and actions involved in the fundraising campaign in coming months.
In their questions to the Rockport Library Foundation, the Board met with some reluctance from the fundraisers in sharing with them their strategy, citing the confidentiality of donors.
Members of the design team present included Phi Builders owner Bettina Doulton and general contractor Charlie Frattini – last year Phi was the firm chosen to serve as owner’s representative for the project – architect Steve Smith and engineer Will Gartley. Doulton led the 20-minute presentation in which she highlighted the importance of having an aesthetically beautiful and functional library in downtown Rockport.
“It has to go well.... This has to be a unifying effort to be a success,” said Doulton of the project.
Frattini said that the design development phase of the project had been completed, that drawings had been issued by the architect (Smith) and that the structural engineer (Gartley) was working on design elements. Frattini said that the construction design would be completed by Jan. 9. He said that the construction documents would be completed by the end of February and that the project would be sent out to bid to contractors by early March.
Frattini said that a groundbreaking for the new structure at 1 Limerock St. is expected to take place on April 15, and that the construction should be completed by August of 2020. With the groundbreaking date approaching, Frattini said that it was imperative that the existing structure was demolished in early December, after which ground boring and soil grid testing was performed at the site to estimate what kind of soil and rock lay beneath the property.
These tests revealed a large stone ledge beneath the building which will need to be removed, likely via blasting.
Select Board member Mark Kelley asked Frattini and Gartley if existing tests from previous years could have been used. Gartley said that there were existing tests of the area on file, but that most of them faced the Memorial Park side of Limerock Street.
He said that the new tests supplied the team with a good profile of the ledge, and that blasting companies have already been contacted regarding its removal. Vice Chairman Ken McKinley asked Frattini if the cost estimates for ledge removal were in line with the budget for the project.
“We’re always above....but it will come out of the contingency and will be absorbed by the construction budget,” said Frattini.
Doulton said that design estimates for the project were “on target” for the $3.5 million budget.
Fundraising to date
With a goal of raising $2 million from private donors to pair with the $1.5 bond approved by taxpayers last November, members of the Rockport Library Foundation (RLF) reported Jan. 8 that over the past six months they had garnered approximately $1.3 million toward their goal over.
Philip Conkling, who serves as fundraising consul for RLF, said that the group hopes to have the remaining funds raised by the end of 2019. Among the monies pledged was a donation of $100,000 and a matching grant of $100,000.
“Sixty six percent of the people we met with agreed to make a [financial] commitment....our goal was to reach $1 million before the [November 2018] vote and there was a lot of support and enthusiasm to bring the project forward,” said Conkling.
He stressed the importance of meeting with potential donors and person and his tenent that “people give to people.”
“We are presenting a positive and unified front about the [new] building....this will be the jewel in the crown of Rockport, but it only happens if we remain committed and above all focused on our goal,” said Bill Leone, who serves on RLF’s Capital Committee.
He said that the group had previously held “Libraries and Libations” events at which fundraisers spoke directly with donors they had identified as highly-likely to contribute and that one of these events had garnered them the $100,000 donation.
Leone said that in coming months the group would be organizing “Dialing for Dollars” nights, but would not be pursuing direct mail solicitations.
Select Board member Jeff Hamilton asked the fundraisers if they had created a timeline of specific financial goals and activities planned in the coming months with an anticipated end point for raising the remainder of the $2 million.
“The short answer is ‘yes’, there’s a plan broken down my month. In fundraising there’s an 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the dollar amount comes from 20 percent of donors. We have a list of people we’re going to see, but are not sure when we will be seeing them because some are travelling,” said Conkling.
Hamilton asked if there was a list of activities and mailings that are intended for a certain group that could be shared with the Select Board.
“It’s a foundation document, it’s not up to me if [RLF] would share that document. There’s a lot of confidential information in there,” said Conkling, adding that the group expects additional enthusiasm from potential donors once construction bids for the project are received.
“Clearly the name of the donor is confidential, but is there an overall plan of what you’re going to do over the months coming up? Is the overall plan proprietary,” asked Select Board member Doug Cole.
“I think that it would be proprietary....We are in the process of completing our strategic plan for the year, but at this point, as president of the [Rockport Library] Foundation, I’m not comfortable in saying ‘this is what we are going to do...this is what we’re going to provide you,’” said member Anne Filley.
Kelley said that the Select Board needed a sense of confidence that the remaining funds, approximately $700,000, would be raised by a certain date.
“We’ve only been at this for six months and have raised $1.3 million,” said RLF Vice President Jon Viehman, adding that capital campaigns are multi-year projects. “We’ve done something here that should give you more confidence than wonder if we can do it.”
”We were only 150 people away from not having this meeting tonight,” said Kelley, referring to the vote by Rockport taxpayers on the library bond issue in November of 2018.
Hamilton said that he had confidence in the project, but asked the foundation members again if they could provide a document identifying what actions will be taken in the coming months to achieve their goal.
Town Manager Rick Bates said it was important that the town be kept abreast of when pledges were received so that the municipality could match the cashflow for the project. Viehman said that an outline could be provided to the Select Board in the coming weeks, and that by June the group hoped to be nearing the $2 million mark.
“What really makes a difference are the very large donors, that’s where we can excel. It’s important that we talk to folks and encourage them – there’s a lot of excitement out there....We have people waiting on you [the Select Board] so that they can make a donation,” said Leone.
The Rockport Select Board will be held Monday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House, at which time the board will make their finding on the status of the library project and vote on releasing the $1.5 bond. Donations to the Rockport Library Foundation can be made at www.RockportLibraryFoundation.org