After the tri-hamlet community rejected a bond to allow a $38 million library to be built on the Links golf course, officials went back to the drawing board to see what the options were. In a community meeting Wednesday, they laid out plans on what needed to be done, and how to get there.
The main idea is now to renovate the existing library building, located just off William Floyd Parkway, and make structural improvements and modern additions in an attempt to improve library services. That basic project would cost between $15 million and $18 million, and would require the library to be vacant for 18 to 24 months while construction takes place.
Architects from Wiedersum Associates explained that the work that needs to be done to renovate the building includes a new roof, new mechanical and electrical systems, asbestos abatement, new furniture, and renovated floors and walls. Based on community feedback, they would also look to add security cameras and exterior lighting. Also based on requests from the community, the firm is looking at a second project option that would add an additional parking lot to the rear of the building. That addition would be about $3 million and would include a safe walkway and vestibule connected to the entrance of the library. This would add an additional 96 parking stalls, bringing the total surrounding the library to approximately 137.
The plan makes some modern additions and structural alterations to the library. There would be separate sections for adults, teens and children. Meeting rooms would be added to the main floor and basement, and the basement itself would be mostly reserved as a teen section. Bathrooms would be made ADA compliant, and partition walls would be constructed to create quiet areas.
While the new plan cuts costs for the community and the library, existing problems could still trickle through. Residents at the meeting questioned whether or not this plan had enough foresight into 20 or 30 years from now, specifically the physical space in a growing community. Library director Kerri Rosalia said the “rule of thumb” for libraries is to have one square foot per resident, a benchmark the current building is already behind.
Rosalia also expressed concern with the current building, saying that even when upgraded, the meeting rooms and book spaces are single-use features and cannot really be repurposed for other uses.
“We can’t add the things that many libraries are adding today,” she said.
Officials added that difficulty in proving the need for a new facility comes with the nature of the problem. Many of the upgrades are structural and, frankly, mundane.
“If you work here you know what’s wrong, but it seems to function and it looks fine,” Rosalia said. “What’s wrong is behind the walls.”
She also added that the current building needs constant repairs and if something goes, it may be hard to get back up and running. The things that do, like wiring and computer issues, take longer due to the infrastructure of the building, which the architect called “archaic.”
But Rosalia said she and the board of trustees would respect the will of the voters, who denied the option for a new building in February.
“Our staff certainly will do our best to make it work,” she said.
Residents discussed the option of using eminent domain to take a piece of land that would be better suited for a new building, although architects are leaning toward staying put. A temporary facility would be needed if the plan to renovate goes through, and officials are looking at options in the area. Some include the old Staples building, the Little Red School House, the old Mastic Beach Town Hall, and others. Prices previously mentioned do not include this temporary expense.
The plan would again need a referendum to be approved, as it would require a bond from the community.