Library's Expansion | Newspaper Articles
$1.3M loan may be needed for library
Marisa Donelan, Sentinel & Enterprise, September 10,
LEOMINSTER -- Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella will ask City
Councilors to consider approving a loan of $1.3 million to
pay for unexpected costs of expanding the Leominster Public
Mazzarella said the request is necessary because
construction has cost more than city officials initially
Mazzarella said he learned last week about the additional
"I knew when all the other building projects in the state,
and all the schools projects, were coming in way above where
they were supposed to be," he said. "I sort of thought ours
would come in high as well."
Library Director Susan Shelton said Friday the increase in
construction costs is due to a delay in bidding for the
project, as well as some unforeseen obstacles that appeared
when building began in 2005.
Planning for the massive renovation project began in 1999
when a feasibility study determined that the old building
would not meet the needs of a growing Leominster community.
Architects and city officials estimated in 2002 that the
project would cost about $12 million.
Shelton said Friday that the project is being paid for by a
state grant and city money; and officials also hope to raise
$1.2 million for furnishings and equipment by the time the
"The project is funded in part by a $3 million state
construction grant, and we needed to get money to complete
the construction through our municipality," she said.
City Councilors voted in 2003 to approve $7.8 million for
construction, Shelton said.
But during that time, the State Division of Capital Asset
Management (DCAM) set forth regulations regarding
public-construction projects, she said.
Shelton said officials had hoped to send the project out for
bid in the fall of 2004, but delayed bidding until the
following spring, because they were unsure whether the new
DCAM regulations applied to the library project, which was
"It was unclear as to whether this new act was a requirement
for us," she said. "This was clarified several months later
when (DCAM) issued regulations for compliance, and it was
determined that the bidding of the library's project would
need to be delayed pending a required code compliance and
The city had to hire an independent firm to examine
construction documents for the review, Shelton said.
When city officials sent the project out to bid in the
spring of 2005, estimates came in significantly higher than
anticipated in 2002, so they transferred money budgeted for
furnishing and equipment to cover the shortfall, Shelton
They also took money from a small "contingency fund,"
budgeted for any future construction costs, just to pay for
the initial bid, she said.
Then, as construction began in July 2005, builders were
again delayed by problems at the site, Shelton said.
"We have had some unanticipated, but significant, site
conditions that we've had to deal with, including hidden
asbestos, substantial rock removal, and water remediation,"
Members of a Library Fundraising Steering Committee began
fundraising last year to make up the money that was
originally designated to furnish the building, which is set
to open in the spring of 2007.
Shelton said $700,000 has been donated so far - about 60
percent of the committee's goal of $1.2 million.
Mazzarella said he hopes people will continue to step up
with donations for the library expansion.
"The big thing is fundraising ..." he said. "That $1.3
million could go away very quickly."
Ward 3 City Councilor Claire Freda said Friday she has not
researched the mayor's request for the loan because it is
appearing on the City Council agenda for the first time this
The request will be introduced Monday but councilors will
not discuss it, Freda said.
"I don't know all the details of it, but I knew there was a
shortfall," she said. "I know we'll have the next few weeks
to discuss and evaluate it."
Also on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting is Ward 5 City
Councilor Richard M. Marchand's request that Mazzarella
negotiate to buy Julie Country Day School, which closed in
June, to use as a kindergarten center.
Marchand could not be reached for comment Friday, but Freda
and Mazzarella said the proposal is in its beginning stages,
and city officials have not yet toured the school.
Freda said although the 16-acre Lindell Street campus is
assessed at $4 million, the building's owners - The Sisters
of Notre Dame de Namur - will likely ask for more.
"There's a lot that needs to be done... It's not available
to us right now," she said. "It's going to be much more than
the assessed value. That's a prime piece of property."
Mazzarella said he doesn't mind looking into buying Julie
Country Day, but said he wants to look at "one project at a
The City Council will meet Monday in the City Hall Council
Chambers, with public hearings beginning at 6:55 p.m. and
the regular meeting at 8 p.m.