State OK’s $2.2m for library rehab

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondet / July 28, 2011

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Everett has been selected to receive a $2.2 million state grant for the planned overhaul of its Shute Memorial Library, while three other local library projects were placed on waiting lists to receive funding.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners on July 14 awarded provisional grants totaling $28.5 million for eight local building projects, including the one in Everett. The grants are provisional since communities must approve their shares of the project costs within six months to access them.

Fifteen other projects, including ones in Reading, Salisbury, and Woburn, were placed on a waiting list by the state board, meaning they have been approved to receive grants when the money becomes available.

Six cities and towns including Somerville were turned down for funding, but the board invited those communities to work with its construction consultants to revise and resubmit their applications.

“I’m delighted,’’ said Deborah Abraham, Everett’s library director, of the city’s grant award.

Abraham cautioned that the library still needs to secure the approximately $1.8 million needed to fund its share of the project. The library plans to cover as much of that sum as it can through private fund-raising and the use of a trust fund, and then approach the city for the remainder.

“If we are able to do this, we would likely begin the project some time next spring,’’ she said. “So what had been sort of a long-term dream is going to be possible to do next spring.’’ The state funding is being provided under the state board’s General Construction Provisional Grants program. Under revised rules adopted last year, the state grants cover up to 50 percent of eligible costs, and communities can earn extra funding by using green design features.

The Shute, at 781 Broadway, is Everett’s branch library. The state board had awarded Everett a previous $1.58 million provisional grant for a Shute project in 2008, but trustees had to forgo the money after the city was unable to cover its share of the costs.

The key problems afflicting the 1899 building include a lack of adequate access to people with disabilities.

The project calls for a new 1,370-square-foot addition that would provide a new, fully accessible, street-level main entrance. The existing 7,210-square-foot building would see an updating of its mechanical systems, an expansion of its children’s room, and the addition of a meeting room.

The town of Reading was approved for $5.1 million in state funding to help with its estimated $11.5 million project to renovate and expand the town’s library on Middlesex Avenue. Ruth Urell, the town’s library director, said in a statement on the library’s website that the library had hoped to receive a grant now, but “I’m confident that this approved project will be funded within the next year or two.’’

“Everyone associated with the Reading Public Library appreciates the beautiful Highland School building,’’ Urell said of the 1894 structure that houses the library, “but we also deal daily with its shortcomings as a library facility.’’ She said the project would increase space for children’s programs and learning areas, and create new spaces for reading, tutoring, and silent and group study.

Woburn was approved for $9.9 million for its project, which currently calls for renovating the city’s existing 18,000-square-foot Pleasant Street library and constructing a 30,000-square-foot addition.

“We’re ecstatic,’’ said Janet Rabbitt, president of Woburn’s board of library trustees. “We got the largest funding award of all the communities. . . . It’s obvious they see Woburn’s need for an expanded library, and we just couldn’t be happier.”

She said the library recognizes it faces two major tasks. One is to fine-tune the design of the project, currently estimated to cost $24.5 million, in order to lower its cost, fulfilling a commitment library officials made when the City Council authorized the library to seek the state grant. The other is to raise as much as it can privately to reduce the amount it will have to seek from the city.

The state board had previously awarded Woburn a $4.7 million provisional grant in 2008, but the city officially abandoned that grant when it applied for the new one. Library officials say the proposed project would preserve the existing 1879 building while adding new space.

Salisbury was approved to receive $3.9 million for its $7.45 million project to construct a new 15,000-square-foot library on the site of its existing facility on Elm Street.

“I’m thrilled,’’ said library director Terry Kyrios. “This represents five years of hard work for all of us.’’

Somerville had applied for state funding for its proposed project to construct a new library costing roughly $20 million in Union Square, to replace its main building on Highland Avenue.

Nancy Milnor, the city’s library director, said she was disappointed the project was not approved for funding, but “we will definitely be revising it and resubmitting it.’’

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