By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — The proposed $32 million Lynnfield Public Library building project is headed to a Special Town Meeting on Monday, March 18.

Similar to Town Meetings held during the spring and fall, the Special Town Meeting will take place at the Lynnfield Middle School auditorium, beginning at 7 p.m. on March 18. A quorum of 175 votes is needed for the Special Town Meeting to proceed.

Town Administrator Rob Dolan informed the Villager that the proposed new library’s price tag has been trimmed from $34 million to $32 million, which includes the $9,077,464 provisional grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). While the estimated tax impact has yet to be determined, the tax impact will be based on $23 million as opposed to $32 million.

Assistant Town Administrator Bob Curtin said during Monday’s Select Board meeting that the Board of Library Trustees submitted a citizens’ petition for a Special Town Meeting in the wake of Fall Town Meeting rejecting two warrant articles related to the project last October. After Fall Town Meeting narrowly rejected the library project, the town received an extension for the $9,077,464 million grant from the MBLC in January.

While Article 10, which would have sent the project to a townwide debt exclusion vote, received 293 votes in favor and 230 against, it did not pass by the required two-thirds majority that was needed.

A similar outcome occurred with Article 11, which have designated that the new library would be built on a portion of the Reedy Meadow Golf Course. While Article 11 received 281 votes in favor and 148 against, it did not meet the required two-thirds majority to pass by 15 votes.

While the Select Board voted to open and close the warrant for the Special Town Meeting on Monday night, the Finance Committee still needs to approve placing the debt exclusion vote question back on the warrant. The Planning Board also needs to approve getting the land article back on the warrant.

If the Special Town Meeting approves the $32 million library project, a debt exclusion vote will take place during the Town Election on Tuesday, April 9.

Library Building Committee (LBC) Chair Russell Boekenkroeger, who is also a Library Trustee, gave an update on the $32 million library project to the Select Board. He recalled that the LBC held community forums to gain feedback about the project’s revised design.

“There was a consensus about the changes that needed to be made,” said Boekenkroeger. “This included reducing the amount of glass in the structure as well as reducing the cost.”

William Rawn Associates Architect Kevin Bergeron said the new library’s design has been changed. He said white clapboard has replaced a large section of glass in the front of the new library.

“We have made a pretty big change to the building’s façade,” said Bergeron.

Bergeron also said the proposed new library has a sloped roof instead of the originally planned flat roof.

“We needed to find ways to make strong connections between the design and the existing buildings in town,” said Bergeron. “We think slope roofs are a major aspect of that.”

Bergeron said the interior of the proposed new library is “essentially unchanged.”

“The way it presents itself on Summer Street is a lot different,” said Bergeron.

Bergeron said the LBC was able to reduce the construction cost for the new library by “rebuilding the estimate in terms of soft costs and contingencies.”

“With the impact of the grant, the project’s cost to the town in 2026 dollars is $23 million,” said Bergeron.

Boekenkroeger recalled that town officials expressed concerns that additional staff will be needed for the new library. While he acknowledged that the DPW will need to hire a new custodian, Boekenkroeger maintained that more librarians will not need to be hired.

“We stand by our assertion analyzed by Library Director Abby Porter and verified by outside sources from Lynnfield that we can move into the new building with our current levels of staffing,” said Boekenkroeger. “Any staffing increases would be approached by the annual budget. That might remain to be a continued item of discussion. We have 11 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees today and 24 part-time people who operate the library 64 hours a week. There is plenty of flexibility in terms of the part-time hours to cover things.”

Capital Projects Manager John Scenna said the proposed new Lynnfield Public Library would be 25,638-square-feet, which is much larger than the current 14,300-square-foot library. He said Bergeron and William Rawn Associates used value engineering to lower the project’s cost.

“The option of value engineering is no longer available further in the process,” said Scenna. “This is a particular concern in these instances because a major option when you are value engineering a project to meet a budget is looking at reducing the size of the building. Unfortunately, in this instance, the size is tied to the grant. Any reductions in building size, which subsequently trickles down to HVAC and electrical, comes off the table.”

Scenna said it will be hard to cut costs for the library project if the $32 million budget estimate increases during the design process or when it goes out to bid.

“While there is contingency in the project, if you use it and apply it, the only other places to go is furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E),” said Scenna. “There are some library projects that turn in that direction because they can’t afford construction, so they look at their soft costs. People are using FF&E budgets for construction and are fundraising for furnishings, equipment and items inside of the building.”

If approved, Scenna said the library project will go out to bid and a construction manager at-risk will not be hired. The town hired Commodore Builders to serve as the construction manager at-risk for the $63.5 million public safety buildings and Town Hall project.

“That approach introduces the possibility of shared risk on the backend when you go to open bids two years for now,” said Scenna.

Select Board member Dick Dalton reiterated his concerns about the library project. He recalled that Scenna, Dolan and DPW Director/Town Engineer John Tomasz worked to “manage risk” for the $18 million elementary schools’ expansion project and the $63.5 million public safety buildings and Town Hall project.

“The school project was on time and on budget, and public safety is headed that way,” said Dalton. “I think John has pointed out some risks that could come back and bite us on this project.”

Dalton also criticized the library project’s revised design.

“In my mind, I still don’t think it fits in with the character of the town centre and the Historic District,” said Dalton. “We are going to continue to disagree about the operating expenses. There are a number of issues that have to concern us all.”

Select Board member Phil Crawford said a number of library projects in other communities have gone over budget the last several years due to increasing construction costs, which subsequently required supplemental debt exclusion appropriations.

“Do you recommend a larger contingency upfront or a larger percentage to offset that?” Crawford asked.

Scenna said the contingency budget can be increased.

“The estimate right now is based on a conventional bid, which is low bid wins,” said Scenna. “If you can’t afford it, you start the whole process over again.”

Boekenkroeger said the LBC can “take a look at” increasing the contingency budget.

Select Board Chair Joe Connell said he still has concerns about the library project.

“The community will vote on this,” said Connell. “That is the way that it is. Looking at this right now, some of the concerns that we have are from an operational cost perspective. We are going to need two full-time custodians and we are potentially going to have to hire new librarians. Those employees cost money. We are trying to get the information out so the public can hear it, and the community can make decisions.”