Talk, but no commitment from Woodstock Library board yet

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Woodstock Library trustees adopted a resolution on June 15 that accepts the Master Facilities Plan report from consultants but is noncommittal on new construction or renovation of its existing facilities with an addition in the back.

The board passed the motion after presentations from architect and former Facilities Task Force member Martin Nystrom showing what the building might look like whether new or renovation, descriptions of a tour taken by Building Committee Chair Jill Fisher of a pre-engineered building factory and warnings from architect Ken Barricklo about the pitfalls of renovation. Fisher, who has advocated for a new building, was the only trustee who voted against the resolution. Trustee Tamara Katzowitz was absent.

“I’m for a new library and I want to be clear about it,” said Fisher.


The resolution states, “We further resolve to create an expanded library on the existing site on Library Lane, preserving the Library Lawn and historic features of the building. This expanded library will be housed in a healthy, accessible and efficient building.”

Initially the resolution used the word “new,” and while President Dorothea Marcus clarified it does not necessarily mean all new construction, some objected to the word.

“I think that the word ‘new,’ as you realize, is very confusing,” said Hera, who has long been critical of the board’s handling of expansion plans. “Why don’t you just use the word ‘improved’ instead of ‘new,’ because ‘new’ implies tear down, build new.”

Trustee Elaine Hammond suggested “expanded” and the word was changed.

Still, some warn of the unknowns involved in renovating a building that was never meant to be a library.

Architect Ken Barricklo, who has extensive experience working under contract with New York City, said it may be more effort in the long run to save it. With a goal of saving the library, much work must be done to pull out the old electrical wiring, which involves ripping walls back to the studs. In many cases, the walls are inadequately insulated, resulting in more expense, he said.

Commission for Civic Design Chairman David Ekroth, who generally favors a new building, suggested exploring a single-story structure that would save the expense and complexity of having an elevator and fire stairs, which are required by code.

Ekroth also said he met with people who were immediately against the project when shown the price tags for the different options. They changed their mind when they say the cost per taxpayer, ranging from $50 to $73 per year for the average home assessed at $347,500.


Envisioning the future

Since the project hasn’t entered the schematic design phase, Nystrom presented sketches showing how the library might look. He showed a design featuring a wrap-around porch that would allow people to sit outside and enjoy the front lawn. The entrance would be on Library Lane instead of facing the lawn as it is now. The main part of the building would have a flat roof, which is better suited to accommodate mechanical equipment and a large solar array.

Nystrom also said it doesn’t make sense to phase construction, whether it be all new or an addition in the back. Phasing would be too disruptive and would end up costing more, he said.


Pre-engineered option

Fisher visited Bensonwood, based in Walpole, N.H. The company can build the pieces in its factory and have everything shipped to the site for either an entire building or extension, similar to a concept proposed by architectural engineer and former Facilities Task Force member Joe Mangan. The firm can either design the structure or work with an architect hired by the library.

The basic shell of a building can be constructed in a manner of days once all the materials arrive, Fisher said.

Another advantage to the pre-engineered option is the library would not be required to pay prevailing wages since all the components are built in a factory out of state.


How about a straw poll?

Still others are convinced the library has not received enough input to make a decision.

“It’s fair to say this community should not be put through another excruciating failure,” said Sam Magarelli, referring to attempts at renovation in 2010 and again in 2014 with a proposed annex across the street. The library needs to hear from at least 1,000 people, he said.

Magarelli proposed a straw poll called Advice Before Consent, asking respondents about the various choices that would give the library better facilities and more space.

The options range from a basic renovation of the current library at $1.2 million to a complete tear-down and replacement at $5.75 million.

Gay Leonhardt said she is offering to work with Magarelli to canvass different parts of town with the straw poll. Based on board input, Magarelli agreed to state the cost per taxpayer in the poll, which still needs the go-ahead from trustees.

Trustee Caroline Jerome suggested a simple visual timeline would help people grasp what the library is proposing and why.

“I think having visuals is something we really need,” Trustee David Lewis said. “All people are seeing is ‘$5.8 million. Run!’” Added Lewis, “We don’t want to destroy history, we want to make history, alluding to Hera’s earlier comments about tearing down the library.

Director Jessica Kerr said there are a lot of people who don’t use the library and don’t think it needs anything done. “But we do. We’re bursting at the seams.”

Kerr said scaling back the project’s square footage can save money, but it would be a mistake.


Unfinished business

The expansion discussion took up so much time, the board did not conduct its regular business including the first of three required deliberations on the operational budget that will be presented to voters in September. Trustees will hold a special meeting June 22 at 7 p.m. at the library to finish its monthly agenda.