Woodstock Library officials have submitted a draft purchase proposal to Miller/Howard Investments for its building at 10 Dixon Avenue and is awaiting a response so it can hold a bond vote. The Library administration hopes to move its operations in total to that property from its current location at 5 Library Lane. Miller/Howard is in the process of having an appraisal done to determine the property value.
“We presented them with a number. I won’t say that number publicly because it’s the middle of negotiations,’ Library board of trustees president Jeff Collins said. “Hopefully, we get someplace close to the number that we gave them…Just to be clear that the proposal is contingent on a bond passing. And they understand it’s contingent upon passing…basically we can’t buy without the bond, and they understand that.”
Both parties agree there’s one shot at getting a bond passed. If it fails, Miller/Howard can find another buyer. “So we have to make sure that we do the work necessary to get it passed the first time. We need to do the budgeting necessary to get it passed the first time,’ Collins said. “They’re being very generous with the building and they don’t want to have it fail, and then have all that work that they’re putting go to naught.”
Collins believes the board should work to get a bond passed by a vote of the public to borrow the money for the building purchase and renovation and then work separately to raise the money for building an addition, which would house a large children’s area. Although the 10 Dixon Avenue renovation and addition will cost more money if done separately, Collins feels the lower cost bond without the addition has more likelihood of passing.
Library Consultant JC Alten has estimated the renovation will cost $1.2 million not including the purchase price. The addition could then cost another $2.2 million. If done at the same time, Alten believes the entire project would cost $3 million, not including the purchase price.
If the library can fund raise money quickly enough without borrowing, after the bond passes, it may be able to complete both the renovation and addition without delay, Collins noted.
“I think we should keep it simple and as low-cost as possible,” Trustee Dorothea Marcus said. “The existing footprint of the building is twice as much square footage as we have now, and I think we can renovate that space to serve our needs in the short term.”
She also said that they believe the proceeds from the sale of the existing library can go toward the addition as well as naming rights and grants. “It’s not ideal, but I think, and especially concerning the folks at 10 Dixon, obviously they’re taking a risk by agreeing to sell the building to someone who has to bond to buy it. So I think we should maximize the chance of the bond passing in order to get their approval on this as well,” Marcus said.
Director Jessica Kerr pointed out possible drawbacks to any delay between opening the new location and building an addition.
“I would say that the spaces that we need the most wouldn’t be in the building when it opened,” Kerr said. “Because the space that that we don’t have is the multipurpose space for presentations and storytimes and tax preparation assistance, and a much bigger children’s room and hopefully, COVID won’t be the thing, but I can tell you that it’s way too small right now,” she said.
“I understand it’s not optimal,” Collins responded. “But, to me, taking the risk of having the bond fail if it’s too high is not acceptable.”
Kerr agreed, but noted the need to argue for the needed space. “I think as the library director, as a staff member and as for speaking directly for what the library needs, I think it’s my job to argue for this.”
Assuming both parties agree to a purchase price, the board will then look at two options for a bond to borrow the money, Collins said. They’ll choose between the option for purchase and renovation or a higher amount for the entire project. “And we’ll have a discussion with the board, and we’ll take a vote. And whichever way the board votes we’ll go that way,” Collins said.
Based on timing, the library may have a window of opportunity to raise money for the addition. “Once we get the bond passed, we’re not going to start building the next day. We’re going to start building in the spring. So if you pass the bond in winter, we have three months before we can start building. That gives us time potentially to go out and raise money,” Collins said. And if that money shows up before we need to start the building, then we can do both at the same time.”
Zoning variance required
Collins acknowledged that former trustee and Planning Board member John Ludwig pointed out 10 Dixon Avenue is in the light industrial zone, where a library is not a permitted use. The library would have to request a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
“I don’t anticipate that being a problem given the location of the building and given that it really isn’t smack dab in the middle of residential area,” he said.