Library's Expansion | Newspaper Articles
Leominster library costs rising
Matthew Bruun, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, September 13, 2006
LEOMINSTER - Although it is expected to win the support
of the City Council, the request for another $1.3 million
toward construction costs on the massive expansion of the
Leominster Public Library will face some tough scrutiny.
Councilor Dennis A. Rosa, chairman of the Finance Committee,
has scheduled a meeting for 6:45 p.m. Sept. 21 to explore
the request, which had its first appearance on the council
agenda Monday night.
"I'm a little concerned we're so far into the project and
the City Council is just now hearing about this shortfall,"
Mr. Rosa said yesterday. "I am charged with a fiduciary duty
to look into this and see how this happened."
Library Director Susan T. Shelton said the project, budgeted
around $12.4 million, has hit snags that have driven up the
cost. When the renovated and expanded library opens next
spring, the building will comprise more than 44,000 square
As the demolition of a section of the building got under
way, hidden asbestos was discovered that had to be removed.
Ledge was also found, and underground water forced the
addition of sump pumps and other measures.
"There really were unforeseen site conditions that have
taken up 68 percent of our contingency (fund) for the
project," Mrs. Shelton said yesterday. "We had every reason
to hope we were going to stay within the amount of money
budgeted. You always expect you're going to encounter
something on the site, but we hit everything."
After the scope of the project was defined, she added,
changes in state law concerning oversight of construction
projects led to increased monitoring costs.
When construction bids came in higher than anticipated, Mrs.
Shelton continued, the contingency fund was sliced thin, to
about 4 percent of the estimated construction cost. Ideally,
she said, that fund would have been closer to 7 percent.
"We just didn't have that luxury," she said. "You just hope
all goes well."
Council President Robert A. Salvatelli said he has heard
concerns from community members about the rising cost of the
project, along with surprise at the sheer size of the
"I think people are just going to have to be patient because
ultimately it's going to be a big plus to the community,"
Mr. Salvatelli said yesterday. "We're going to find a
community resource that is going to be second to none."
The council approved the borrowing of $7.8 million for the
project three years ago. Library officials pledged to raise
a further $1.2 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment
for the project, which includes a 35,000-square-foot
Mrs. Shelton said the fundraising effort just reached
$700,000, including cash and pledges.
Mr. Rosa said pledges are great, but he wants to see dollars
"It's going to take some time to go through this budget," he
said yesterday. "I've heard from an awful lot of people that
are just taken aback this has run into these cost overruns."
Mr. Rosa, who prides himself on being a fiscal conservative,
said he was surprised by widespread discussion of
large-scale spending projects at the same time the library
has gone into cost overruns.
There is a move afoot to buy the former Julie Country Day
School, which would cost millions, Mr. Rosa said. Meanwhile
the city has invested $900,000 in plans to renovate
Southeast School, but construction hasn't been able to move
forward because the money isn't there.
"The city of Leominster is in good financial shape, but
we're going in too many directions," Mr. Rosa said.
Mrs. Shelton said she remains optimistic about the
fundraising efforts and the support of the city.
"It's a wonderful project," she said. "It's really going to
be a remarkable public facility. It's just been a