Monday, July 2, 2007

Village Agrees to Borrow Up to $15.5 Million for Mamaroneck Library Expansion

The Mamaroneck Library board came one giant financial step closer to implementing its plans for the library's renovation and expansion with the approval by the village trustees, at their June 25 meeting, of a borrowing of up to $15.5 million to help finance the project.

The library's building committee and its architect, Mamaroneck resident George Schieferdecker, have already trimmed close to $3 mllion from their original $22.8 million proposal, primarily by eliminating the top floor of the new addition, reducing it from four stories to three and sacrificing a fourth-floor multi-purpose room that would have had a view of Mamaroneck Harbor.

And, for the first time in the library's history, its board is also vigorously pusuing a private fund-raising effort, which, at the suggestion of Village Trustee Tom Murphy, has included repeated funding appeals by library president Helen Rafferty, its director Susan Benton and even its custodian, as well as some of its youngest patrons, at televised village board meetings.

Private funds, Mayor Phil Trifiletti noted at the June 25 meeting, could mean that the village would not have to borrow fully up to the $15.5 million limit the trustees have set.

Rafferty, in an e-mail to this newsletter, stated, "it's important to keep in mind that we are still in the process of working with professional cost estimators to more clearly define the overall project costs. In late July we will have the reports from two independent estimators and will then look at the projected costs and whatever value engineering steps we can take on the advice of our architect and/or our construction manager."

At the village board meeting, she stressed that the money from the village borrowing would go into updating and expanding the library's structure--the "bricks and mortar"--and its infrastructure, including its antiquated and sometimes barely functioning elevators and heating, cooling and electrical systems, so that it will meet standards for "safety, efficiency, handicapped accessibility [and] fire codes. "We are not, she said, "trying to get a futurist library, we're trying to get a library that can get insured in 2007."

Responding to library patron Patricia di Lustro's suggestion that, since books are becoming "obsolete", the library should add less space than proposed and rip out shelves to make room for computer stations and seating. Rafferty pointed out that, whatever the technological formats people might use 20 years from now, they "will have to be stored somewhere."

And to di Lustro's suggestion that it would better serve patrons if the library expanded its hours, rather than its space, Rafferty replied that it would be prohibitively expensive because the biggest expenditure in the budgets of libraries, schools and other public entities is for personnel. The library, she added, is already open for 75 to 80 percent of the year.

(It should be noted, that after three years of planning, months of public outreach and private fund-raising and long after the village's announcement that it was inclined to float a bond for the expansion project, di Lustro went before the village trustees -- on the very night they were finally scheduled to decide on the bond issue--to ask them to postpone the vote in order to consider her ideas.)

Rafferty reminded the public that construction costs go nowhere but up and that every day a capital project is delayed, the more expensive it becomes. She also said that an unprecedented amount of government money is currently available for capital grants, which could reduce the total amount the village would have to borrow.

One of the several grants for which the Mamaroneck Library is applying is part of New York State's 2007-08 Public Library Construction Grant Program, which was recently announced by Assemblyman George Latimer. The program allocates $14 million statewide ($650,000 for Westchester County) in grant money to help libraries expand, remodel or otherwise physically improve their facilities.

The program, Latimer explained, allows library systems to apply for grants that will fund up to 50 percent of a project's cost for any of their member libraries. Libraries, he continued, may use local, state, federal, public or private funds or a combination of these sources for the required matching funds.


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