Build new, keep the lawn? Woodstock Library trustees take public comments

 

Inside the Library. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Woodstock Library Trustees heard some support for an entirely new building mixed in with pleas to preserve the institution’s Tinker Street front lawn, as they gathered community input regarding architect options for modernizing the town’s facility.

Other than revised bonding figures, no new information was presented at a February 2 meeting in Woodstock Town Hall. The sole purpose of the meeting was to gather more input.

“We need your preferences on what needs to be done,” said Director Jessica Kerr. “Your homework is to make sure your friends and neighbors get comments to us.”

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The options, presented by library planners and architects ADG Cohn, range from a renovation of the existing library with minimal new space for $1.75 million to a complete teardown and replacement of the old building for $5.75 million.

Alan McKnight was skeptical of the need for a new building until he read ADG Cohn’s building conditions report, which is available on the library website at woodstock.org. “When I read that, I was appalled,” McKnight said. “I changed my mind. I think we ought to get rid of it.”

Nancy Schauffler also favors a new building, but acknowledges it will be difficult. “I’m inclined to think a new building makes sense,” she said. “But that’s going to be very controversial.” She said a new building will provider better windows, lighting and air quality for everyone’s benefit.

Architect Ken Barricklo told the board there are a lot of unknowns with a renovation. “I feel the new building is really the way to go,” he said.

But whatever is decided, most who spoke were against building anything on the front lawn, both to preserve it and for logistical reasons.

“The concept of a building in the front and having a courtyard will make a very inefficient campus,” said Marty Nystrom, a member of the Facilities Task Force that recommended updating the master plan. In addition, there are water drainage easement issues, he noted. “The yard is dearly loved and cherished. The trees are dearly loved and cherished,” said Nystrom. “The front lawn is sacrosanct.” Nystrom suggested that a three-story addition in the back instead of a front building and courtyard would provide enough space and save the lawn. He also cautioned the board to carefully plan how much space is needed, making it flexible space, because it will be extremely difficult to build again if space isn’t sufficient. “Build the maximum that you can,” he said.

Violet Snow, a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, said having the view of the lawn across the street is “great for us” and hopes it can be preserved.

“We love the front lawn,” said Hera. “It’s really a special place.” Hera said she enjoys having picnics on the lawn with her grandchildren.

“To build in the front…That would be ridiculous,” said Lorin Rose, who believes building in the back “seems to be the best of anything.” He also urged the board to cap the amount of money to come from taxpayers.

Former Facilities Task Force member Eliza Kunkel told the board it doesn’t have to hold the FTF recommendations over people’s head as if they were the last word. “I would urge you not to hold the FTF as a cudgel,” Kunkel said. “We did not decide anything.” The FTF suggested constructing an addition in the rear of the building, but the main thrust of its report was to recommend updating the library’s Master Plan.

“The building is simply not up to standards,” Kunkel said, referring to the roofline that resembles a bathtub.“No matter how much money you throw at the building, it’s still a residential building that was  never designed to be a library.”

Friends of the Library Vice President Claudia Gahagan said a new building has a better chance of getting funded. “If you’re looking for private funding, you can’t have the old structure at all,” she said. “Building onto the old building is not going to attract financing. You really need to stop putting a band-aid on it.”

Gahagan also urged the board to figure out where a temporary library is to be located before work is done. Depending on the situation, the library may be closed for two years.

Kerr assured attendees the “library as we know it” may be closed for two years, but there will be a library in Woodstock in some way, shape or form.

Sam Magarelli said he’d be comfortable with any of the proposals, but what needs to be discussed is the financing. People will be more receptive if they know the full amount isn’t coming from taxes, he said. “Give the taxpayers a limit so their fears are assuaged somewhat.”

 

Bonding costs go down, list of options

At a December 10 public forum, trustees had presented the estimated tax impacts of bonding (borrowing the money for the project.) Estimates were based on a town tax base of $1.2 billion. The actual 2016 tax base was just over $1.3 billion, so those estimates have gone down.

Concept 1, which is a renovation of the current building and little else, is estimated to cost $1.75 million. For a 10-year bond, standard with old construction, the cost per taxpayer is $43-$50 per year, depending on whether the property is commercial or residential.

Concept 2, an addition on the north side, combined with a renovation, is estimated at $4.1 million. Cost to taxpayer: $44-$51 based on a 20-year bond.

Concept 2a, a larger area of new construction and less of the old building remaining intact, is estimated at $5.75 million. Cost to taxpayer: $63-$73 for a 30-year bond.

Concept 3, a 10,000-square-foot building on Tinker Street with a courtyard and connection to the old building, is estimated at $4.5 million. Cost to taxpayer: $49-$57 for a 30-year bond.

Concept 4, demolition of the existing library and replacement with a brand-new building is estimated at $5.75 million. Cost to taxpayer: $63-$73 for a 30-year bond.

Library officials have stressed these amounts are for full bonding of the cost and it is expected a large portion of the funding will come from donations and state and federal grants.

Charts explaining the bonding rates and detailed descriptions of each proposal are available at woodstock.org/planning. Questions and comments can be sent to masterplan@woodstock.org.

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