MURRAY – After being given a month to think about a new proposal from the architect in charge of the Calloway County Public Library’s expansion project, the library’s board of trustees unanimously voted this week to spend an estimated $7.3 million on the project.
The library’s current square footage totals 12,047, and the board had previously approved a plan in February 2020 that would have brought the square footage to 30,788 at an estimated cost of $6,840,216.75. During the December board meeting, Chris Cottongim, president of the Louisville-based 5253 Design Group, presented the board with a new proposal that would add an additional 19,828 feet for a total of 31,875 square feet. The plan also includes 1,886 square feet in exterior covered areas.
Cottongim said he came up with the new proposal to take advantage of the property east of the current library building that the board recently purchased. That lot is currently home to Southern Family Dental, and Cottongim’s revised plan expands the library in that direction. The projected budget for the new proposal is $7,329,866.75, which is $489,650 more than the board originally voted to approve almost a year ago and adds 1,087 square feet compared to the previous plan.
The new plan would multiply the library’s existing total square footage by roughly 2.65, or approximately 164.6% more than the building currently has. Cottongim estimated last month that construction could be completed in November 2022.
Trustee Levi Weatherford asked how accurate the cost estimates would be since the project originally started planning in 2016.
“As far as the budget goes, during each phase of the contract – the schematic phase, the design and development phase and the contract document phase – we’ll do a hard budget that’s not just a square foot budget,” Cottongim said. “This is a schematic budget, so we do the best we can based on historic information that we have, based on projects like this that we’ve done around here, so we feel good about those numbers at this point in time, but we will do two more phases of detailed budgets on this project to see where we are.”
Cottongim had also presented an alternate version of the new floor plan with reduced square footage to cut down on costs, but trustees opted for the roomier option.
“I like the generous size of the north lobby (in the unreduced version),” said Trustee Debbie Bell. “That’s going to be most people’s first impression, and if they come in and it’s just 12 feet wide, they’re going to say, ‘This is a skinny little hall.’ I think it needs to be a good size, and at the end of that is the circulation desk, which was really fine because it was so large. When you reduce the lobby size, you also reduce the circulation desk and it’s not much bigger than the one they have now. That part really bothers me. … I’d really like to have the big lobby and the big circulation desk; I think for our staff, that circulation desk would be a real blessing.”
“I agree,” said Trustee Lance Allison. “We want to be good stewards of our money, but that is not that big a difference for a building that is going to go 50-60 years. I mean, nothing’s been done with this library in forever, since I was a kid. So I don’t want to nickel and dime something (and later) be sad we made that decision five years from now when growth happens again.”
“Here’s my thought as a citizen of Calloway County,” Weatherford said. “When’s the last time you heard of a public entity with a balance sheet like what (Business Manager Wyneth Herrington) just shared with us? When you’re able to do a project of this magnitude and you’re borrowing less than 50% of the cost – when’s the last time a government entity did that?”
Library Director Mignon Reed said she had polled the staff, and they had also been in favor of the larger plan.
Toward the end of the meeting, Trustee Vonnie Hays-Adams gave a report on the terms of board members. She had reported at the November board meeting that a member of the public had approached her about the board potentially violating state law because of changes Calloway County Judge-Executive Kenny Imes made to the lengths of some terms. Imes had extended some terms because the county has had recent difficulty in keeping the board filled, and he said he wanted to stagger the terms so more than one seat would not have to be filled at one time.
Bell and Chair Riley Ramsey were originally slated to end their terms in August, but the statute says board members may stay on until new trustees have been appointed to replace them. Reed researched the terms and reported that Ramsey and Bell are currently scheduled to end their terms this year; Allison’s will end in 2022; Adams’s will end in 2023 and Weatherford’s will end in 2024.
Reed suggested the library ask for applications in March or April, which she thought would give Imes plenty of time to choose new trustees to fill the seats occupied by Ramsey and Bell. She said Bell could also reapply since she was filling an unexpired term and hadn’t served two full terms.