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Scituate library renovation may cost taxpayers more money

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 28, 2013 01:44 PM

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Scituate taxpayers may be asked to pitch in more money for the town's library renovations after a campaign to raise as much as $5-million from private donors has come up short.

The Scituate Library Foundation has been trying to raise money from private donors for the $12 million library renovation since receiving approximately $4.9 million from the state in October.

Granted by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the funding is contingent on the town coming up with the remainder, the majority of which Foundation members hoped to raise privately. The group hoped the town would pitch in $2-million in public money, and the remaining $5-million was to come from private donors.

“It’s a $12 million [project]. There is a $7 million gap. We have to make that up in a combination of private and town funding, so we’ve got to figure out what that’s going to look like,” said Les Ball, co-chairman of the Capital Campaign for the project and a Board Member for the Foundation.

The grant funding comes with a July deadline, giving the group a tight deadline to raise money.

“We had planned on being able to raise money until we got the money from the state, which was going to be starting in July 2015, but it is going to perhaps start as early as July this year,” Ball said. “So we need to get a postponement of that for six months and we need to get the approval for the town to fund the rest.”

The group is already working on the deadline extension in order to fundraise more money.

Yet by the looks of things, most likely the town will be asked to pitch in more than the $2 million anticipated.

Lowering the $12 million cost of the project is not an option, Ball said.

“We can’t do that under the state grant,” Ball said. “We’ve proposed a $12 million project and the $5 million we’ve been given is based on the assumption we will do that project. We can’t do $11 million or $10 million; we won’t get the money.”

Ball pointed out that the existing 35-year-old library is in need of $3 million in upgrades anyway – from bathroom renovations to roofing fixes.

The town would be on the hook for that by themselves, Ball said. Under the total renovation, the town is able to receive a 35 percent increase in square footage along with interior upgrades with help from the state.

Among those, more meeting space will be added along with a glass-paned wall to let in more natural light. Updated and expanded parking along with green updates to the building will also be included.

Though the fundraising timeline has been condensed, the group is still pushing for private help for the project.

The Foundation has already privately raised $500,000 for the library renovation, and recently hired a professional fundraiser to work with the group.

More fundraising events are also being planned now. For example, the Foundation has acquired approximately 40 wooden fish, carved by a chainsaw artist in South Carolina.

The group will distribute the fish to artists and schools throughout the town to be decorated, and then will put the fish up for display in businesses throughout town.

By the end of June, each fish will be auctioned off.

“We’re using that to create buzz more than anything,” Ball said. “But with 40 fish, if we can get $100 a fish, that’s $4000. It won’t go a long way towards $5 million, but it’s part of the way.”

The group is also meeting with skeptics and curious residents for coffee every week to explain the project and talk about its benefits.

“I just had a cup of coffee with someone who asked questions. There are a lot of people in that ballpark and we’re trying to convince them that this is the right thing to do,” Ball said.

For more information on the library renovation, click here.

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