Royalton Library Mulls Renovation Cost

  • Lauren Bomalask,of South Royalton, Vt.,i helps her daughter Birdie 19 months down the stairs of the Royalton Memorial Library after attending story time on June 15, 2017 in South Royalton, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/23/2018 1:08:55 AM
Modified: 6/23/2018 1:09:08 AM

South Royalton — Trustees with the Royalton Memorial Library this week began assessing ways to trim costs for a long-awaited renovation and upgrade to the building, which was constructed in the 1920s, and some acknowledged that another bond vote may be required if the price tag remains significantly above the original $750,000 estimate.

Trustees met on Monday with Royalton Selectboard member Chris Noble, who has been designated as the Selectboard’s liaison to the nonprofit, independent library, and also had an initial meeting on Friday with a cost estimator who might give them a clearer breakdown on likely costs for each component of the project.

The Selectboard in April called a “timeout” on the renovation after bids came in at least $250,000 higher than anticipated, and also fired Jay White, the architect hired by the library.

The two-story brick building lacks a secondary fire egress, has old plumbing and heating, and requires patrons to climb a flight of concrete steps to enter the library. The two-story renovation was to include a library addition with an elevator, a new handicapped-accessible front entrance, added book-storage space and a new meeting room.

The bids ranged from about $1 million to $1.2 million, but did not include costs for a sprinkler system and new water line to the building that might be required.

The library trustees have raised almost $500,000 for the project, and the Selectboard’s position is that voters thought the total project cost would only require about $300,000 in borrowing, even as they approved a $750,000 bond by a 374-133 vote at a Special Town Meeting in October. The town itself owns the library building, which also housed the Town Clerk’s Office until the new town office building was constructed in 2014.

Library Trustee John Dumville, a former selectman, said the library board is looking at eliminating a road-widening, paring back costs for the electrical lighting system, and getting a waiver on the sprinkler system, which they hope might not be needed if entry and exit points are improved and the library attic isn’t used for storage.

“I think we will go back for another bond revote in November for the proposed addition. The library is hoping the Selectboard will allow us to go back and work with Jay White to make some modifications, because we know there are some cost-savings we could do,” Dumville said on Thursday.

Noble on Friday said he’s not certain that a vote could be held as early as November, and that various alternatives need to be assessed, but he hopes all parties involved will work collaboratively and bring a proposal to a Special Town Meeting vote.

“We’re not going to gut the project where we don’t provide value to the town,” said Noble, who was elected to the Selectboard in March and worked in government contracting for the military. “I think we’ll get to a good place, but we’re going to have to work together.”

Library Board Chairwoman Cynthia Dalrymple acknowledged another bond vote was “a possibility.

“I’m not resigned to it. I want to see what our consultant comes in and says. Given this particular Selectboard, I believe that’s what they are going to push for,” she said.

When the Selectboard fired White, they also retained architect Frank J. “Jay” Barrett to provide input on the project. Although Barrett sent the Selectboard a “preliminary comments and observations” memo in April raising questions about the cost-effectiveness of the project, he now supports proceeding with a renovation. He has suggested the library also one day might expand on the neighboring Safford Street lot now occupied by the South Royalton Fire Department, with a new fire station being built outside the village on the town office lot.

But Noble noted that members of the fire department have no desire to move.

“It turns out the firehouse has just as strong an organizational booster as the library does,” Noble said. “Their grandfathers and fathers built that place, and they are not hankering to move to a new place.”

Selectboard member Sandy Conrad said in an interview that the town might consider building housing and a community center, or perhaps a new library, on the 4-acre Hope property on South Windsor Street that now houses community gardens. But she also said she would like to see taxpayers be given the opportunity to vote on a new bond for the library if the consensus is to proceed with an upgrade to the current building.

Dalrymple noted that many residents like the current location of the library because it is within walking distance to their homes, and that the money raised in grants and donations indicates strong support for the building.

“It makes a great library, it has for 90 years, and I think it can be that way for another 90 years,” she said.

Noble said some residents have asked if it would be cheaper to build a new library, and that solid cost estimates and an analysis of alternatives are both merited, even though he suspects the final result will be to keep the library where it is.

“If it were possible, I’d love to see ‘what should we be building into the project that not only serves the library now, but also 20 years into the future, when the last bill is paid,’ ” Noble said.

John P. Gregg can be reached at or 603-727-3217.

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