By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The cost for the proposed new Lynnfield Public Library has increased.
Library Building Committee (LBC) Chairman Russell Boekenkroeger said during a recent meeting that the LBC has received updated cost estimates for the proposed new library. He said the project’s cost will increase from $21 million to $23,422,381 if the new library gets approved in 2023. He said the project’s cost will increase each subsequent year.
Boekenkroeger recalled that the proposed new library project includes an $8,092,364 grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), which brings the town’s portion of the cost to $15,330,017
“People had thought that the costs were going to explode and the project was going to be very expensive, but it turns out that was not the case,” said Boekenkroeger. “The materials included in the conceptual design did not go up as much as other materials.”
Boekenkroeger said the Baker-Polito administration has increased the MBLC’s construction program’s budget from $20 million to $24 million. He noted that the proposed new Lynnfield Public Library is currently ninth on the MBLC’s waiting list.
“Each town on the waiting list will have six months to approve their projects,” said Boekenkroeger. “If any of the towns in front of us don’t approve their projects, we are going to move up.”
In response to a question from Library Building Committee member Tom Kayola, Boekenkroeger said the communities that don’t approve those library projects will be taken off the MBLC’s construction program waiting list.
“The MBLC is moving more quickly than they have in the past,” said Boekenkroeger.
After a warrant article for the library project is submitted to Town Meeting, Boekenkroeger said it will need to pass by a two-thirds vote in order for a town-wide debt exclusion vote to be scheduled.
Library Building Committee member Chris Mattia, who is also the Finance Committee’s chairman, gave an overview of a proposed timeline for the library project.
Mattia said the first step in the process is having the Select Board appoint a Library Design Construction Management (LCDM) Subcommittee in August. He said the new subcommittee will consist of Town Administrator Rob Dolan, Capital Projects Manager John Scenna, DPW Director John Tomasz, Library Director Abby Porter and a representative from the Board of Library Trustees.
“This will be similar to the framework used for the elementary schools’ expansion project and the proposed public safety building project,” said Mattia. “This will be a subcommittee for the Library Building Committee, but they will be in charge of managing the project. I don’t think anyone on this committee wants to be managing the project.”
Board of Library Trustees Chairman Bob Calamari said the Select Board should appoint the LCDM before August.
Mattia said a request for qualifications (RFQ) for an owner’s project manager will be issued in September. He said the OPM will be overseeing the project.
“The RFQ and interview process will be conducted by the LDCM,” said Mattia. “Once the finalists are chosen, the LCDM would present their recommendation to the Library Building Committee for approval.”
Mattia said the timeline also includes scheduling public meetings to obtain feedback from residents about the new library’s design. He anticipates the public meetings will take place from October through January 2023.
Calamari said the public hearings about the project should begin in September.
After the LBC receives feedback from residents, Mattia said the feedback will be incorporated into the project’s revised conceptual plans by February 2023.
Boekenkroeger argued that the project’s conceptual plans “do not need to be updated.”
Mattia said it’s important for townspeople to weigh-in on the proposed new library’s design.
“We need to make sure the design that was created five or six years ago is still what people want to see,” said Mattia. “We cannot take this to Town Meeting without an agreed upon design. We have to have something to show people.”
Kayola, who is the Finance Committee’s vice chairman, agreed.
“We are asking for the community’s feedback in what they want in a new library,” said Kayola. “If we don’t incorporate feedback into the project, then why are we asking for the public’s feedback?”
LBC member Kate DePrizio noted that “the world has changed” since the proposed new library’s design was created several years ago.
“We need to be responsive,” said DePrizio. “We are in a very different place now. My husband works for a multi-billion dollar tech company that built a building in 2019, and not even 25 percent of the company’s employees are working in that building. To be fair to this community, we need to see the needs that were once vetted are still needed and if there are any additional needs. I think we should invite the community to give input before we proceed.”
Scenna said the Library Building Committee has to show the town renderings of the proposed new library so they can see the proposed building’s design.
“It would be similar to what we did with the school project,” said Scenna. “Before the Library Building Committee goes to public meetings with the Select Board and presents the project at Town Meeting, there needs to be a visual of the project to show people.”
Library Building Committee member Nick Connors said renderings for the project exist.
LBC member Chris Barrett said the turnaround timeframe to update the plans seemed to be “quick.” He asked if the proposed plans could be updated before the library project is presented to Town Meeting.
“At a conceptual level, yes,” said Scenna.
In response to a question from Planning Board Chair Brian Charville, Scenna said William Rawn Associates is the library project’s architect.
“The town just has to sign a new contract with the architect for whatever service we want them to do next,” said Scenna.
Library Director Abby Porter said state aid for the library could be used to fund additional architectural services.
Boekenkroeger argued that, “The town needs to pony up some money too.”
“We are talking about a $20 million-some-odd project that is being done out of a tin cup,” said Boekenkroeger.
Boekenkroeger called the proposed timeline “more relaxed than what some us of might have envisioned right now.”
“The dates are not aggressive enough,” said Boekenkroeger.
Mattia said the timeline’s proposed dates “are not hard in the sand.”
“The framework will guide us,” said Mattia. “If we get a letter from the MBLC six months from now, we are going to have to accelerate the timeline.”
Kayola expressed his support for the proposed timeline.
“If we can all get on the same page that this is our plan of attack, that is a good start,” said Kayola.
Town Moderator Joe Markey, who is an ex officio/non-voting member of the LBC, recalled that the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by three-quarters of a point to try and curb inflation.
“I hate to say it, but I think the framework is too slow because if we don’t act soon, we are going to be leaving $8 million in state aid on the table,” said Markey. “Anyone who has worked in government knows that when there is an economic recession, this grant might not get awarded. This could be one of the first things the State Legislature cuts. We are going into an economic recession, and that needs to be factored into the situation.”
Boekenkroeger also proposed creating new subcommittees for the library project. He said the Communities and Communications Subcommittee will consist of himself, Connors, DePrizio, Porter, Markey, and LBC members Kate Flaws, Sarah Kelley, Alison Squadrito and LBC/Library Trustee Andrew Kenneally. He said the Economic Subcommittee will include himself, Barrett, Charville, Kayola, Mattia, Porter, Scenna, Select Board Chairman/LBC member Phil Crawford and LBC member Steve Todisco.
After the discussion, the LBC unanimously voted to recommend that the library project be voted on during the 2023 Spring Town Meeting.