ROCKPORT — Select Board and Library Committee members in Rockport met with architect Stephen Smith and site plan engineer Will Gartley Monday evening, Jan. 23, to review current plans for the town’s public library construction project.
The goal is to produce plans to put before voters in June that illustrate what a new library at 1 Limerock Street in Rockport Village would look like, and ask voters to bond $1.5 million for that new library. That $1.5 million would be combined with another $1.5 million that is to be raised through private donations to build a new $3 million library on the site of the existing library building.
The Jan. 23 workshop took place following a regularly scheduled board meeting that had but two business items on a short agenda, one of which was to talk with Peter Pelletier, president of the South Portland-based Ledgewood Construction, about engaging his company to help manage the library preconstruction and construction details.
While emerging library layout and designs were presented at the workshop — and all present stressed how preliminary those ideas are — they agreed that they wanted the public to be aware that the plans are evolving.
Rockport Public Library Director Ben Blackmon pledged to post the plans as they develop on the library’s website.
At the workshop, the Select Board also agreed that help with fundraising for the public-private project must get off the ground. The board is actively seeking assistance with soliciting donations to offset the $1.5 million library bond that voters may see in June.
Rockport resident Bill Leone suggested that the board establish a task force to create a fundraising committee, and hire a professional fundraiser to organize the effort.
The building project is the latest attempt to end a convoluted process that began five years ago to replace the existing, yet deteriorating, library building. The library collection has been temporarily relocated in a rental space on Route 1 in Rockport, and the library currently operates there, while the town decides what a new library building will look like in Rockport Village, and whether it should be built.
The Rockport Select Board voted in December to contract with Stephen Smith and Associates, based in Camden, to design a new library. Gartley and Dorsky, of Rockport, is developing the site plan.
Smith and Gartley have also encouraged the town to work with Ledgewood Construction for project management services.
The Select Board agreed with the Ledgewood proposal at the Jan. 23 meeting and have directed Town Manager Rick Bates to develop a contract between the town and the company to provide the services.
Site, floorpan and elevation sketches
The evolving site plan for 1 Limerock Street includes a redesigned intersection of Russell, Union and Limerock streets, and the town is hoping the Maine Department of Transportation may step in to assist with funding that infrastructure improvement.
The intersection redesign would remove the existing island that lies in the middle where the three roads merge.
The site plan also calls for creating 14 new parking spaces across Limerock Street from the new library, and which would indent into the existing park.
Limerock Street, in the proposed plans, remains two-way, for the present.
A red brick walkway is shown on the site plan as winding through the park, and then crossing Limerock Street to the library entrance.
Landscape architects at Terrence DeWan and Associates, in Yarmouth, have been engaged to take a closer look at the plans by Smith.
“These are the first drafts we are showing everybody,” said Ben Blackmon, library director, at the workshop. “Things can and will change.”
Select Board Chairman Ken McKinley reinforced Blackmon’s position.
“We are at the preliminary stage,” he said. “Nothing is etched in stone.”
It’s a tremendous start, they agreed.
Smith presented the proposed floor plans, the production of which, he said, results from seven or eight meetings held with Blackmon, Gartley and others on the Library Committee since December.
The job before them, said Smith, was to take a previous $4 million budget 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.
Over the past month, the small group has been massaging the plans, said Smith.
He said the site itself presents a steep slope with an approximate 10-foot grade change from the top of the site to the sidewalk on Russell Ave.
“We’ve got the advantage of that slope,” he said.
The main floor will be the primary operation of the library and the lower floor will be designated for secondary uses, along with a potential expansion area for program space and event space, with its own access.
“The plans we have developed to-date are conceptual in nature, and so are the elevations,” said Smith.
Meanwhile, Ledgewood is to estimate the material costs of the project, while Smith continues to meet with the Library Committee and Blackmon.
Over the next six weeks, he said, the preliminary structural designs will be created, and then the town will need to make financial decisions about quality of materials and size of space — “less space and more quality or more space and less quality.”
That includes the cost analysis between using brick or wood as siding.
Using brick veneer would be approximately $100,000 more, but ‘figure several paint jobs over a 25-year-period and you’ve offset that cost,’ said Smith.
One citizen attending the workshop asked if solar panels on the roof had been included in the plan.
The metal roof, he was told, would accommodate panels, as would the southwest-facing gabled roof. The town could opt to install solar in a few years, depending on the project cost.
Fundraising: ‘Making the ask’
Getting volunteers involved to help raise money to build the new library has been a slow process, with two select board members and the town manager approaching prospective individuals.
Leone suggested establishing a Library Fundraising Taskforce, whose members, in turn, would pull together the fundraising committee.
He suggested that task force include Town Manager Rick Bates, Select Board members Doug Cole, Ken McKinley and Tom Gray, Library Director Ben Blackmon, Library Committee member Ann Filley, and Friends of Rockport Library member Pat Messler.
He suggested the town hire, with financial help from the Library Committee, a professional fundraiser, and anticipate spending $30,000 to $80,000 on such a person to create and implement fundraising strategies and tactics specific to reaching the $1.5 million goal.
Committee members working with the professional fundraiser should have some experience “making the ask,” he said.
Leone also pointed out that there is much fundraising competition currently for local projects and advised showing a tangible product to potential donors.
To get to $1.5 million, the committee might need a major donor who can give $250,000 or more, he said, then others who can donate $150,000.
“You start to add these up,” he said.
To get the last $150,000 or $200,000, the committee might need to solicit 300 or 400 people in town, he said.
The Select Board will again discuss the library project progress at its Jan. 29 meeting.
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