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Bristol selectmen give nod of approval to library expansion

February 01, 2011
BRISTOL — The Trustees of the Minot Sleeper Library appeared before the selectmen at their regular meeting last Thursday evening to present the latest proposal for the expansion of the heavily used town library.

Architect David King walked the board through the new design, which involves a separate, one-story addition with a children's wing to be constructed on the lot adjacent to the historic Minot Sleeper Library. He said the new proposal was significantly more modest than the two-story plan that was narrowly defeated at Town Meeting last year. It will be a sustainable building, adding as much square footage as last year's proposal, but eliminating stairs and an elevator that would no longer be needed.

If it makes economic sense, he indicated that the town could pursue some form of LEED certification (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) for the project.

In any event, he said that the plan was to investigate the possibility of using geothermal at the site.

King said that the trustees held a well attended design charrette in November that yielded a lot of helpful suggestions and valuable input from the public. He emphasized that the "modest building of woodframe construction" was designed to fit well into the existing space available without overpowering the handsome, historic library structure or the surrounding neighborhood.

"We felt it was important to treat the historic building with respect," said King. "We wanted to bring brick into the new structure to echo the old, but we also tried to differentiate the new building in style, according to the guidelines of the town Master Plan that asks that we not give a mere 'historical pastiche' to the addition."

The new building will be slab on grade, with the basement of the historic Minot Sleeper to serve as the mechanical room for the entire library and the first floor of the existing facility being re-purposed as a community meeting room. There are approximately $150,000 in renovations to the historic building included in the proposal, for new wiring and a sprinkler system to bring it up to code. But the new addition will house all the regular functions of the library, including stacks for the books and space for computers and programs.

The board of selectmen voted unanimously to support the proposal on the warrant at Town Meeting this year, but they also voiced concerns about the potential price tag. At present, the cost of construction is estimated to be at $1.3 million, or $400,000 less than last year's proposal. But Select Board Chairman Rick Alpers requested, and received, assurances that the trustees will get another estimate from a construction manager and continue to see if there are ways in which the project cost can be further reduced.

Trustee George Corette said that the trustees felt that they had made appropriate decisions about the quality of the library design, and that there were some changes to reduce costs that they could not favor. The original Minot Sleeper Library building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is considered to be a "gem" of the downtown.

"The Trustees have worked for 10 years and invested $50,000 of our own money in this plan," said Corette. "We surely don't want to build something so cheap that it is a disservice to the town."

Several of the trustees said they felt this was the opportune moment to move forward with the project, since construction costs will only increase with delay and the bond rates will not likely be better than they are at the moment.

Current estimates indicate that the tax impact of a 15-year bond would translate to approximately 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed value per year.

Select board members said that they would ultimately decide on the term of the bond and would shop it out to get the best rate.

Barbara Greenwood said that the trustees are very excited about the project, and would dearly love to have support. She has spoken to many of the younger residents in town, who she says are especially happy that the children's room is so well defined, safe and secure.

"This project is so important and necessary," said Greenwood. "The current library is crowded, the computers are in use constantly. These days, people do not have the discretionary money to purchase newspapers, magazines and books, so people are flocking to the library. Everyone will benefit from the new building."

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