Supervisors leaning toward old middle school for library
A proposal to permanently move New Kent’s branch of Heritage Public Library into the main building at the county’s old and now empty middle school apparently is winning the blessing of county Board of Supervisors members, especially since renovations would be about one-fourth the cost of a new building.
Despite supervisors’ enthusiasm for the old school proposal, unveiled during the board’s Oct. 28 work session, library officials who sat in on the meeting didn’t exactly jump on the bandwagon.
A plan devised by the county’s General Services Department calls for renovating 16,000 square feet of the school’s main building over a three-and-a-half-year timetable. Work would proceed as the library’s space needs grow, the plan indicates. Eventually, the building’s lower level could be phased in to increase floor space to 20,000 square feet.
The overall price tag is pegged at almost $1.1 million with work being phased in at a cost of about $400,000 each of the first two years and the remainder covering the final year-and-a-half.
A new library building, based on construction estimates in the county’s current Capital Improvement Plan, is penciled in at $4.5 million for 15,000-20,000 square feet of space.
“This is not a gutting out; this is a remodeling,” county General Services director Jim Tacosa told supervisors concerning the proposal for the old school.
Walls inside the building can be demolished or added, depending on library needs. Problems exist with the building’s wiring system, which would need upgrading, and current heating and air-conditioning would be replaced by modern heat pumps, Tacosa said. Basic infrastructure is already there, he added.
“The project can be developed in modules,” he said. “The building lends itself to this.”
But County Administrator John Budesky said any library project, whether renovation or new construction, comes down to money. Budget preparations for the next fiscal year are in the early stages, but already supervisors have instructed that draft proposals contain no new borrowing.
“This may or may not be the year to start funding,” Budesky said, adding there are no anticipated budget surpluses to carry forward to next year.
“Ultimately, the library board [of trustees] wants a 20,000 square-foot building and wants New Kent to pay for it to an extent,” he said.
Budesky warned that if library trustees opt to build on their own space, the county might not be forthcoming with future financial support.
Supervisors, meanwhile, appeared to embrace the concept of renovating the old school after touring the facility.
“A library is a pretty good fit for this part of that building,” District 5 representative Ray Davis said.
District 1 Supervisor Thomas Evelyn said, “I feel comfortable phasing this in with as little money on the taxpayers as possible.”
Board chairman Jimmy Burrell said the plan advanced by Tacosa is “beyond my expectations,” while District 4 representative Stran Trout said the building is “very restorable.”
“We’re going to do it anyway, and this looks feasible,” Trout added.
District 2 Supervisor Marty Sparks did not attend the work session.
Afterward, library Board of Trustees member Susan Brucker said trustees have already spent $18,000 on a study to identify library needs. The task now at hand is to reach a compromise in negotiations with supervisors concerning library needs and the economy, she said.
Trustees are considering a new building on county-owned land behind New Kent Post Office, but Budesky said supervisors have made no commitment concerning sale or lease of the site.
Library officials, meanwhile, are scrambling to have concrete plans for a new location in place before a lease on the temporary New Kent branch site on Route 155 near Colonial Downs runs out in 2011.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to serve our clients,” Brucker said.
Brucker said she plans to present the old school renovation plan to trustees. Supervisors expect to hear trustees’ reaction during the board’s meeting next Wednesday (Nov. 12).