Selectmen grill Library Trustees on costs, size of library project
By Robert Fucci
Sutton Public Library Director Betsy Perry and Board of Trustees Chair Lisa Kane shared with the Board of Selectmen during the July 25 meeting the good news regarding the $4.9 million construction program grant that was received earlier in July.
But Perry and Kane wound up having to defend the importance of a new library instead.
Board members voiced concerns over the cost residents will have to burden, along with the new library’s overall size.
“I’m worried about under utilizing the space,” Selectmen Chair Jesse Limanek said. “It’s not whether we need a new library, but rather the size.”
Plans for the new library are for a 17,000-square-foot facility. The current library is just 2,100 square feet.
“17,000 is the right size,” Kane said. “We are ridiculously undersized. It’s the second-smallest for a town this size in the state. We’re following the moderate level required by the state. We went for the low end. If we didn’t meet that standard, we wouldn’t have gotten the grant. We didn’t pull this number out of thin air.”
Kane and Perry argued the use of the library by Sutton residents also support the need for a larger library. The library’s total circulation is 61,765 items, with a circulation value of over $1 million. The library hosts 214 children’s programs, 47 for teens and 79 for adults.
“It’s the residents in town you have to convince,” Limanek said. “I wish you all the luck.”
Last year, 100 new library cards were issued.
“It’s often said a library is a town’s living room,” Perry said. “The library serves all and is for all. This is our opportunity to build a better Sutton.”
The $4.9 million construction program grant was awarded by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissions (MBLC). Overall, 33 communities applied for the grant and only nine were awarded.
The new library would be located on 2.5 acres of Shaw Farm.
The average grant award is 45-50 percent of the eligible costs. The remaining costs would be incurred by the municipality. Because the library plans to attain the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification, it is also eligible for additional state funding through the Green Library Incentive. That would be an additional $174,285.
Total costs for the new library would be about $10 million, or an average of $93 per year for the average home in Sutton over the next 20 years.
Additional costs for furniture, fittings and equipment is estimated at $1.2 million. Perry said fundraising efforts and a capital campaign are underway to offset the remaining costs.
Selectmen David Hall questioned whether the timing for a new library was right considering the town just approved funds for a new police station and DPW building.
“I have really been supportive of what you’re doing here. The most important thing from my perspective is to build a building for 50 cents on the dollar,” he said. “That’s something that the voters of this town should weigh on. The timing could be a lot better. We have a brand new school building and just voted to build a police station on top of that. That’s the challenge before you, whether it’s the right time for this need.”
If Fall Town Meeting doesn’t approve the municipal match for the grant, it would be 10 years before Sutton could apply again. This is the town’s third attempt at pursuing this type of grant.
“If we could have shifted out two years, we would have,” Perry said. “But the shifts are 10. These are the cards we’re dealt. We have to match the grant by Jan. 12. We’ll approach Fall Town Meeting and then a special election after that. Then we’ll be able to start as soon as the ground thaws. The sooner we can begin the better off we’ll be (financially).”