New library pricetag: $7 million

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A new Sequim Library could cost nearly $7 million if the North Olympic Library System’s board of trustees move forward with a consultants’ pre-design cost plan.  


SHKS Architects revealed a $6,968,336 initial estimate at the NOLS board of trustees’ meeting on Thursday, Feb. 27. It would include demolition of the existing 6,000-square-foot building and building a new library of about 17,150 square feet.


However, trustees agreed it’s too soon for a decision before receiving more public feedback.


“I think it’s pretty obvious we need good community support before we move forward with a project that size,” board vice-chairman Betty Gordon said.


“We need to proceed carefully and make sure we’re not asking for more than people can tolerate.”


In the pre-design cost plan, construction would cost a little more than $5.1 million while occupancy accounts for slightly more than $586,000, design $480,000, project contingency $309,000 and cost escalation in 2016 at $486,000.


One cost saving factor, NOLS Executive Director Paula Barnes said, would be keeping a new building on site rather than building elsewhere.


“The location is good, convenient to downtown and close to schools,” she said.


Initial designs by SHKS Architects show the library expanding westward toward Sequim Avenue and retaining a driving path to the south, with most or all of the parking to the east, where a gravel parking area and Friends of the Library book sales take place.


However, Barnes said if trustees did choose to move forward with developing a new Sequim Library, the soonest anything would go to voters would be the general election of 2015.


“Even then, that’s a pretty aggressive schedule,” Barnes said.


Funding and timing

One option to build a new library could come from passing a vote to create a Library Capital Facilities Area, likely following the boundaries of the Sequim School District, and asking those voters — about 29,000 — to support funding the building by passing a bond issue.


Barnes said if the board decides to pursue the expansion, it likely would take two issues to the voters in an upcoming election – creating the LCFA and to support the sale of bonds to fund the project.


The remainder of the costs could come through a capital campaign.


The recent discussion to expand follows other local entities looking to build new facilities, including Sequim School District.


Gordon said the timing of asking for money is something the board has expressed concerned with in their discussions.


Barnes said another aspect they are considering is the role of technology in conjunction with space such as making the collection more digital than physical.


“In my experience, technology is an added dimension. It’s not replacing the library,” Barnes said. “It’s a place people enjoy coming for classes or children’s classes or WI-Fi or for computer instruction or to read. Who knows what the physical needs will be going forward, but whatever the design is it’s going to have to be a flexible building for future needs.”


More input  

For now, board members like Elaine Frederickson echo Gordon’s sentiment to wait for more feedback from the community.


“Our next step is to outline what do we need to do,” Frederickson said. “Whether we even decide to form a library district probably won’t be made until we have more input from public and whether or not we have the support we need.”


Barnes said they’ll have a meaty discussion at their March meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27, in the Port Angeles Library with a possible decision on whether or not to move forward.


“We’re interested in setting a time line with milestones but another critical element will be a citizens advisory committee to have a strong, ongoing community involvement,” she said.


Frederickson and Gordon, Sequim’s representatives on the library board, agree that the Sequim branch needs more space.


“I think it (space) needed,” Frederickson said. “It’s very crowded there but I don’t want to go down that path until we have more public support. People on boards like this have a responsibility to the public.”

Barnes said they’ve had anecdotal evidence from library users’ comments so far, but a study by SHKS quantitatively confirmed the need for a new building.


In their study, it showed libraries customarily have 0.5 square feet per person whereas Sequim has 0.2 square feet in its 6,000-square-foot building for about 29,700 people.


“If we accept this standard of half a foot per capital then we see we’re at point now that things are pretty dire,” Barnes said.


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