Library Plans Praised

West Hartford — A presentation of designs and specifications for the forthcoming West Hartford Library was met with widespread praise last night, indicating the project will move forward unabated.

“Unless we hear something to the contrary, this is where we’re headed,” said Town Manger Hunter Rieseberg, standing in front of several 3-D renderings of the proposed building. “We’re headed there at full speed.”

His remarks followed murmurs of excitement from about 15 residents gathered at Bugbee Senior Center who were asked, after the presentation, for their general reactions.

“It looks gorgeous,” said Christy Hazen, whose husband, Tom, is chairman of the West Hartford Library Trustees.

According to Rieseberg, the plans will be firmed up over the next couple months and construction will be put out to a bid in January. Work on the project, which has a $750,000 budget, should begin in March.

In the hour-long presentation, architect David Laurin referred to the project as a “rehabilitation” of the library. The historic building, which was heavily flooded by Tropical Storm Irene, will be renovated and reopened, albeit about 40 feet south of where it currently stands. That way, it can sit atop a new, waterproofed foundation.

“We’re going to pick it up and essentially slide it over,” Laurin said.

Also, a 1,430-square-foot addition will be built further back from Route 14 and connected to the historic building. According to Laurin, even though the addition will be nearly double the size of the old building, the historic building will still face the main road.

“It’s not overpowering to that building,” he said of the addition, “but yet it stands alone on its own merit.”

The entire new library will be built on land the town owns. To prevent damage from Irene-scale flooding, the building will sit at least one foot above federal flood elevation standards. Further, Laurin said, the new main entrance will lead straight to a four-foot-high staircase and lift.

Bob White, the project’s landscape manager, explained the potential for a “community performance area” right outside the library as well as a relocation of the memorial garden, currently located next to the nearby Patriots’ Bridge, to the other side of the building.

Those changes, plus a new green space and expanded parking to serve the library and West Hartford Village Store, would create a “village cluster” for residents, White said.

There was a pause.

“Lighting,” Hazen said.

“Lighting,” White responded. “Good question.”

He said that the plans, which are still in the initial concept stage, have not yet included street lamp locations. But he said they would be installed, especially in the expanded parking lots, one of which will be behind the library’s new wing.

Rieseberg said that the project is still set to fit within the town’s $750,000 budget. A bond passed by voters at Town Meeting will account for up to $500,000 of the costs, and the rest will come from post-Irene insurance claims and other funds.

Several small concerns floated by attendees were either debunked or acknowledged by the architects, but no one took a vocal stance against the plans.

“It’s great,” said Selectboard Vice Chairman F.X. Flinn, one of three board members to attend the meeting. “I think it looks fabulous. I’m very excited about how it’s all looking.”

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.