September 1, 2014

Chester Library Trustees Are Asked to Consider Building a New Library at North Quarter Park

CHESTER— The library board of trustees has agreed to investigate the option of constructing a new library at North Quarter Park in place of expanding the historic existing library building on West Main Street.

The decision comes after a Feb. 4 meeting with the board of selectmen, where the selectmen asked the trustees to more fully explore the option of building a new library at the 22-acre park located on the east end of Main Street, near the intersection with Route 154. The trustees have been focused for the past two years on a building plan that would renovate and expand the historic 1907 library building on West Main Street.

Library trustees in December presented a revised plan for a $2.8 million expansion plan that would focus most of the new construction underground as an extension of the existing lower level of the building. A more costly $3.09 million expansion plan with above-ground extensions of the existing building had received a mixed response from residents when it was presented in 2012.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said this week he, and the other two selectmen, had numerous questions about the plan for an underground expansion. “I have some reservations about spending money on an underground library,” he said.

Meehan said the option of building a new library at North Quarter Park has never been fully explored since the library trustees began considering a building renovation and expansion project more than two years ago. Meehan said building a new library could be less costly than attempting to renovate and expand the existing historic building, while also avoiding the expense, and inconvenience, of relocating the library for more than a year during construction at the existing building.

Terry Schreiber, chairwoman of the elected library board of trustees, said the board, with reluctance among some members, had agreed at a meeting Monday to investigate the option of building a new library at North Quarter Park. Schreiber noted that residents had expressed a preference for retaining the existing library building during surveys and public forums held in 2011. She acknowledged that constructing a new building would avoid some of the problems associated with the existing site, including the need to move the library to an undetermined location for more than a year during construction.

Schreiber said the trustees would request an appropriation to pay for an engineering analysis of the feasibility and potential cost of building a new library at the park. A $20,000 state grant had paid for the preliminary plans that were prepared by a South Windsor architectural firm on the two expansion options for the existing building. Schreiber said the trustees are hoping to make a final decision on a building plan by August to meet a September deadline to apply for a $1 million state grant that will be available for library building projects later this year. The town would need a confirmed site, and preliminary schematic plans for a building project, to apply for the state grant