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May 12, 2009 7:53 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Jermain Library officials want $10 million expansion

May 12, 2009 7:53 PM

John Jermain Library officials will ask Sag Harbor School District residents to kick in nearly $10 million to overhaul and modernize the historic library building, according to the latest plans presented at the library last week.

The plans, unveiled by John Jermain Library director Catherine Creedon on Wednesday evening, abandon a preliminary proposal to construct a second library building for educational and cultural events at a site near Mashashimuet Park and focus solely on the renovation and expansion of the century-old library building at the south end of Sag Harbor’s Main Street. Newman Architects of New Haven, Connecticut, designed the plans.

The $9.98 million project will be up for voter approval in a referendum on June 29 at the library. Only residents of the Sag Harbor School District may cast ballots in the referendum.

The 20-year bond would be funded by a dedicated property tax levy for district residents.

Ms. Creedon said that using conservative estimates of the interest rates the library could expect to get on the construction bond, the cost to a resident of Sag Harbor would be about $97 per year for a homeowner whose house is assessed at $750,000.

The project would nearly double the size of the structure on the library property, adding about 7,000 square feet to the existing 7,500-square-foot building. The addition would add about 4,000 square feet worth of additional internal programming space, Ms. Creedon said. The rest includes an elevator shaft and second staircase to the upper floors of the building.

More than half of the total cost of the project would go to renovating and modernizing the existing building, which has suffered from cramped spaces, faulty heating systems, leaking windows and a roof that has left staff protecting books and computers with plastic garbage bags. It also lacks accessibility to its third floor for patrons who cannot climb the narrow winding stairway.

New heating and cooling systems, modern computer facilities, community meeting rooms, reading rooms and climate controlled archival storage facilities for the library’s extensive historic documents collection would be included in the renovation.

Bringing the crumbling historic building into compliance with today’s accessibility, fire and safety codes—including the installation of the elevator—will gobble up another quarter of the bond money.

Community surveys made last fall showed strong support for the second building or moving the library altogether because of lack of off-street parking at the historic library building in summertime. But the 6,000-square-foot second building shown in sketches presented by library administration last month would have cost an additional $6 million to $7 million to buy the property and build the second building, Ms. Creedon said, and the library’s board of directors decided the financial burden was too much to ask of taxpayers, considering the current economic climate nationwide. Constructing the new building would also likely have meant delays in the entire project as it would have required regulatory approval and would have added some $500,000 to the library’s operating costs, nearly doubling them.

Eliminating the second building from its plans cramped the possibilities at the new building as well, since community meeting rooms and the archival storage were to go in the annex under the preliminary plans.

As it is, the proposal asks taxpayers for nearly $2 million more than a bond proposal that was defeated at the polls in 2004. That project called for a completely new facility on the property near Mashashimuet, turning the existing library building into a community center. In public polls, community outreach and widely circulated surveys library officials have been asking residents over the past year what they would like to see—and be willing to fund—at the library. Parking concerns were of a high priority for the large population of residents who live in the outlying regions of Noyac, North Haven and the village. Ms. Creedon said that while the plan cannot add off-street parking they are working on parking schemes that will allow for more and safe street-side parking in the vicinity of the library.

At Wednesday’s presentation to members of the board of directors and dozens of community residents, Ms. Creedon said the library is applying for state and federal grants to offset some of the costs and hopefully lessen the burden on taxpayers, including money from the federal economic stimulus plan.

If the bond is approved, completing designs and planning will take about a year, according to the library’s chosen contractor, Sandpebble Builders, and construction would begin in the fall of 2010 and end mid-2012.

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How about creating permit-only parking zones near the library? Permits would be issued only to those within the Sag Harbor school district (one per household). This would help to ensure that residents within the district would have preferential access to the library.
By HEJIRANYC (32), Sag Harbor on May 15, 09 12:53 PM