West Hartford Library Costs Cut

West Hartford — Bids from contractors to repair and renovate the West Hartford Library came in at least $115,000 above the approved $750,000 budget, but town officials say they plan to cut costs on the project.

“This is the nature of construction,” said Hartford Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg, who will give an update on the project at tonight’s Selectboard meeting. “Bids come in high and we work to lower them. We do this on almost all of our projects.”

The West Hartford Library was badly damaged when the White River flooded during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and residents of the village have sought to replace the structure along Route 14.

Rieseberg said the town will be working with the lowest bidder, E.F. Wall & Associates, a regional contracting firm based in Barre, Vt., that estimated it could complete the project for $876,000.

To lower the construction cost, Rieseberg said he’s been working on a series of cost-reducing measures with White River Junction architect David Laurin.

Rieseberg said he was concerned about diminishing the utility of the project by cutting the plans too deeply.

“We don’t want to change the design so much that it doesn’t do what it was designed to do,” he said.

Selectman F.X. Flinn, who was in favor of the library renovations, said cuts would involve scaling back on additions like a memorial garden or landscaping, or changing the quality of some of the building’s finishing materials.

He attributed the higher bids to timing.

“What’s probably going on systemically is, a lot of these estimates were done in 2011 or 2012,” he said.

Rieseberg said funding for the project comes from three main sources: the bond proceeds, which amount to $500,000; insurance proceeds, which contribute an additional $224,000; and, about $85,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damages from Irene, bumping the total funding to roughly $809,000.

Rieseberg said after a wave of cuts that the construction cost has dropped to about $850,000. But even then, after subtracting $809,000 from $850,000, the town would be accountable for about $41,000.

Although the goal is to continue trimming until the total cost is as close as possible to $750,000, Rieseberg said the town will have to tap into its reserve fund of about $1.6 million to cover the additional project costs.

“That’s what the surplus is for,” he said, “unforeseen events like this.”

Rieseberg added that although initial plans called for shifting the library about 40 feet south, to be placed atop a new, waterproofed foundation, and attached to a 1,430-square-foot addition, in order to get FEMA funding, the library isn’t moving.

Thomas Hazen, chairman of the West Hartford Library of Trustees, said he hopes the trimming is completed sooner rather than later so that the town can move forward with renovations.

Hazen, 40, said he’s lived in Hartford his entire life. Growing up in the village, he viewed the library as the town’s hub.

“It’s really the center of our village” he said. “It seems like there’s been a lot of backups and problems, but I’m sure we can make it happen.”

Zack Peterson can be reached at zpeterson@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.