The Haines Borough Public Library Board is pursuing plans to construct a 600-square-foot addition to the library, but whether borough funds will be used to design the project is under debate.
Library board chair Anne Marie Palmieri said the group has been talking about the addition for the past two years but recently approached the borough, asking that $55,000 in borough funds previously allocated to a separate library project be reallocated for design of the addition.
The $55,000 was set aside several years ago for construction of a heated storage unit at the library.
Palmieri said the addition is primarily to add work space for employees. The board’s plan is to fund construction of the project through outside sources like grants, she said.
“When the library was constructed, there were significantly fewer staff members and right now we have all of the staff desks really piled up on top of each other in the back room... It’s a shared work space, but it’s really a hallway, and there’s no place to do any of the book binding or mending. That has to be done on the same counter where the microwave is,” Palmieri said.
Public facilities director Carlos Jimenez said he understands the 600-square-foot addition would include a conference room that could be used by both library staff and the public. The addition would be positioned in the space between the library and borough administration building, Jimenez said.
The borough’s finance committee discussed reappropriating the $55,000 as part of a larger budget amendment package during an April 15 finance committee meeting.Haines Borough assembly member and finance committee chair Jerry Lapp balked at the requested change.
“The CIP was for a storage shed. This is totally different,” Lapp said.
“We’re going into what you might call a little tougher economic times and they’re expanding, which is in the end going to cost us more money to pay for that expansion... Do we need to do this at this time?” Lapp added.
The $55,000 price tag also raised the eyebrows of assembly member and finance committee member Debra Schnabel.
“I can’t approve of it. I think that if it was $55,000 for heated storage, and if we reappropriate $10,000 of it for design, that somehow would make a little bit more sense to me... I’m looking at $55,000 in design work. It’s a huge amount of design work,” Schnabel said.
Lapp discussed striking the reappropriation from the budget amendment, but the committee decided to seek more information on the project. The assembly will ultimately vote on the amendment and decide whether to reappropriate the $55,000 for the addition.
Mayor Stephanie Scott said she believes the library board and assembly members need to get on the same page. “The library board has spent an enormous amount of time crafting this project and we’re unaware. They haven’t given us a written track of that craft. So I don’t think we need to be too judgmental right now. We can just say we don’t have enough information,” she said.
Jimenez said because the project is still very conceptual, he could not provide an estimated price tag. Manager Mark Earnest said design expenses normally account for 7 to 10 percent of a project’s total budget.
“A half-million dollar addition is what this amounts to, at a minimum,” Earnest said.
Jimenez said he started talking with library representatives three or four months ago. The group looked at several conceptual drawings of the addition, produced by Larry Larson at Deadtree Design, but hasn’t settled on anything yet, Jimenez said.
Because the library wasn’t designed with additions in mind, plans for such an addition need to be made very carefully, Palmieri said. For example, plans will need to retain access to an underground fuel tank or the tank will need to be moved elsewhere, she said.
“We are trying to be very conscientious and look at this in a realistic capacity,” Palmieri said.