Library's Expansion  | Newspaper Articles

Library costs questioned - FinCom asks why?
Mary Jo Hill, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, September 22, 2006

LEOMINSTER - With a request to borrow another $1.3 million for the city library project on the table, the Finance Committee last night quizzed those working on the project about changes that added to the costs and why they did not see some of the changes coming.

Councilor Dennis A. Rosa said the council should have been treated as a partner in the construction project.

Now that the renovation and expansion of the Leominster Public Library is 80 percent complete, the council is in "sticker shock" over the cost, Mr. Rosa said.

At the end of last night's committee meeting, no recommendation was made on the request to appropriate the money and authorize the borrowing. Instead, committee members will decide about making a recommendation at Monday's City Council meeting.

When he was told that any delay in moving the additional $1.3 million forward could cause construction to slow down or stop and add to the expense, Mr. Rosa said the situation was like a nightmare for the Finance Committee.

Once the construction project is done, the library will be more than 44,000 square feet. The renovation and expansion was budgeted for about $12.4 million.

Mark C. Bodanza, chairman of the library building committee, talked about some of the factors that added to the cost.

Even before construction started, there was a delay that boosted the price tag, Mr. Bodanza said.

Those working on the project had to determine if a new state statute applied to the expansion and renovation and in the meantime prices of steel, cement and other materials went up, he said.

An unexpected, but significant, asbestos problem cropped up when construction began, adding to the costs, Mr. Bodanza said. And city departments knew that this was happening, he said.

Those working on the project were able to keep down the asbestos abatement cost, he said.

"I don't mean to make excuses but there were a lot of things going on," Mr. Bodanza said.

Mr. Rosa said he has seen some major change orders for the work.

"It's very clear that this project was in financial trouble from day one," Mr. Rosa said.

Mr. Rosa said he believes the council should have been notified sooner, he said. Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella signed every change order, he said.

Councilor Wayne A. Nickel questioned why the architect was not aware of asbestos in an older part of the library and why nobody anticipated water problems since the area where the building is located is known to be wet.

The asbestos in the older part of the building could not be seen without doing a "destructive investigation," said Michael J. Mullaney, vice president of McKenzie Engineering Co. in Leominster. Even with that investigation, finding the asbestos would have been hit or miss, he said.

And while those working on the project had an idea about the groundwater elevation, the significant problem did not come up until they were excavating for a new basement and hit a spring, Mr. Mullaney said. Waterproofing added to the expense.

Councilor John M. Dombrowski wanted to know if there were any changes that could be made at this point to save money, such as cutting some amenities.

Mr. Mullaney said some cost-saving measures have been made, including using fiberglass rather than stone for the cornice at the top of the building.



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