SOUTHINGTON — The library building committee is moving forward with a smaller 24,000-square-foot plan and discussed further cuts to the design for the new building during a meeting the architects.
Members of the committee were given a comprehensive cost breakdown of the project, and voted to determine what they wanted to keep from the revised library proposal and what could be cut out.
The committee is aiming to shave off as many dollars as possible for the new library building after the cost of the project exceeded the funding they were allocated in last November’s referendum.
The revised schematic of the building was first presented to committee members during a special meeting late last month by the architects at Whiting-Turner Co. The final cost estimate was $18.67 million, higher than the $17 million in spending voters approved for the project last November.
The community room and the outside hardscape areas will likely be going through the most significant alterations. One of the selling points of the community space in the new library plan was a fully retractable glass wall that would open up onto a wide outdoor hardscape area where people could enjoy the outdoors in the summer months when hosting large function events. The cost of the door was priced at $440,000.
That feature will no longer be incorporated into the plan, with the committee pursuing alternative, more cost-effective options.
One of the major design goals of the architects when drafting the initial plan, to bring the outside inside, with extensive integration between programming and outside hardscape areas along with an open patio on the second floor and wide bays of windows to let in natural light. With the cost restraints, however, much of that original vision may be dialed back.
While members of the committee still wish to have access to the outside, they debated whether a similar effect could be achieved with several doors, sliding sections, or using TV screens instead. Similarly, the hardscape area by the community room, the children’s reading area, and for the sign at the corner of the property will either be scaled back or removed.
“The problem with an open door is that it’s not really bringing the outside inside, I think that’s a big part of the design feature,” Committee Chairman Jim Morelli said, expressing his disappointment with the removal of what he saw as crucial features of the library’s design.
“We gave up a lot of ideas to save money. So it's all been about cheap it out, cheap it out, cheap it out. I feel like we're trying to dumb down this whole library. This to me was a feature that I thought we were going to try and retain.”
Currently the committee is pursuing alternative sources of funding for these features, such as fundraising, so that they might still be brought into the design in another form. The scope of their implementation is uncertain until the committee’s next meeting on Nov. 2nd.
“It's really a dollar issue,” Vice Chairman Paul Champagne said, remarking on the downscaling of the building’s exterior features.
Other discussed alterations that were considered for removal was at least one of the skylights on the second floor, all but the front-facing end caps on the bookshelves, and the pavers from the second floor exterior seating area.
Several other parts of the project are also being rolled back. The technology package for the building was one such consideration, with the removal of the proposed vending machines for laptops from the plan. Committee members also seek to cut down on costs by moving over some of the old furniture from the old library into the new one.
While some notable features of the building are being kept in, such as the drive-in reception window and book drop off, committee members are considering keeping it unstaffed for logistical and budgetary reasons.
With the slashes to the budget currently proposed, there is the potential for a million dollars to be saved on the construction.
In spite of the reduction of several of the building’s features, committee members were largely satisfied with the outcome of the meeting - with several cost-effective cuts made. One aspect that garnered approval was that virtually none of the interior programming spaces were downscaled.
“The only programming spots we looked at for not having are the exterior ones, all the interior stuff is intact,” Town Manager Mark Sciota said. With them pursuing alternate means of funding the exterior spaces, he said, none of the programming space could be cut at all.
Architects had a booth during the final weekend of the Apple Harvest Festival earlier this month, and mentioned that residents seemed largely satisfied with their current plan and were understanding of the changes that needed to be made.
With several major features put up as alternates, the implementation of certain parts of the current plan remain in flux. Designers and members of the committee are looking to come to a more solid determination of the project’s scope by their next meeting, which will be held on Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Southington Library.