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State Grants Belmont $7.5 Million For New Library

Will pay for 40 percent of construction costs of proposed new building.

The Belmont Library Foundation and the Belmont Board of Library Trustees were awarded a $7.5 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners today, Oct. 4, to construct a new $18 million library proposed to be built across Concord Avenue from the current library location.

Eight projects around the Bay State were awarded for general construction grants by the Board of Library Commissioners at its Oct. 4 Board Meeting. Belmont was the second ranked project in the 2010-11 grant round.

The $7.5 million grant was nearly the entire $8 million the trustees requested two years ago in July 2011 when they applied for the grant.

The 45,000 square foot, two-story building – compared to the 29,000 square feet in the present library – will consist of two sections; a front facing Concord Avenue and a narrower back section extending into what is now Belmont High School softball field.

The read more about the design of the new library, go to Belmont Patch's article "New Library's Grant Application Off To The State."

The trustees and the foundation have just begun efforts to raise private funds to offset the nearly $10 million it would take to build the new structure to replace the nearly 45-year-old structure adjacent to the Underwood Pool.

Libraries in this grant round are the first to benefit from revised Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program regulations, approved by the Board in January 2010, which increase the average grant award from 35 percent to half of the eligible costs.

The Green Library Incentive, approved by the Board in September 2008, was also enhanced so that libraries can plan energy efficient systems and construction at the outset of the project and be eligible for additional state funding.

The trustees are celebrating the news by inviting all those who helped in the process of planning the grant application and Belmont residents who supported the project to attend a small "thank you" celebration at the library on Saturday, Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to noon, which happens to be on the first day of the library's annual book sale. The celebration will be outside in front of the library, weather permitting. Otherwise it will be held upstairs in the main lobby.

Those interested in helping with the new library, or if you’re willing to volunteer to help with a campaign or maybe make a donation should contact the Belmont Library Foundation.  You may visit their website or send an email to mellynch70@verizon.net.

Lee Adams October 05, 2012 at 01:00 AM
I do hope the Belmont tax payers won't be asked for funding.
Franklin Tucker (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Unless the Trustees can fundraise the $10 million to complete the project, they will need to ask Town Meeting in May for funding via a bond. So if you know someone looking for a big tax break in 2013 ...
Lux et Veritas October 05, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Why should we celebrate destruction of open space, a playing field, and the building of a parking lot? The town and library board have still presented no plan on how to allow the High School to support its activities. This plan still requires School Committee approval of land transfer and voter approval of a $10M bond. Given that we have more important capital needs (DPW, etc.) and should not be penalizing our future high school students, I will encourage the School Committee to oppose land transfer and will vote against any town bond (I'm a TM member). There have been several chances for the Library Board, the Selectmen, and BMLD to work to solve these issues for the High School, but they have all been failures to the balkanization of our planning and failure to plan for the whole town, rather than just for a single department. Sorry, but I hope this plan goes down to defeat.
Franklin Tucker (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Dear Yale alumnus or Latin scholar: Just an update: the Selectmen have authorized a request for proposal for an engineering firm to analyze the feasibility of placing the Underwood Pool on the site of the Underwood Playground which will allow the current pool site to be transformed into a soccer/lacrosse field for the town and High School. So far, the schools have not expressed an opinion on the proposal. Also, the library trustees are hopeful that an aggressive fundraising effort with the possibility of naming rights for areas of the library and the library itself will reduce the amount needing to be bonded. The move would also begin an anticipated "domino" effect in Belmont as the Police headquarters will move to the present library, the former Municipal Light Department Building and Police Station then will be sold for development, the DPW moves to the currently BMLD site as it travels to an area around the new electrical substation off Brighton. Yet I suspect you are of the mindset that if this Rube Goldberg plan is brought before Town Meeting, "malum consilium quod mutari non potest."
Pamela Sullivan October 05, 2012 at 04:58 PM
We already voted against a new Library once. Why are we talking about it again?Spending money on engineering firms for something that has not been approved by the voters is AGAIN very wasteful and VERY POOR MANAGEMENT from the Town Leaders.
Clare McDermott October 05, 2012 at 05:42 PM
I have mixed feelings about this project. While I believe a high-quality library is a must for every town, this project seems so expensive for such a small town. I wonder whether library trustees will consider some mixed-use ideas for the library. For example, Belmont is full of solo-entrepreneurs... people who work from home or small offices in professional fields. These individuals would pay money to have a WIFI-equipped space to escape to from time to time to conduct business. Would the library consider some mixed for-profit uses? Currently I believe these types of uses are forbidden. Also, would be interested to find out whether there are plans for high school to co-use space (since they are so close). I have not followed this story, so I'm not sure to what extent the library committee has evaluated what citizens truly want from a library vs. what libraries have traditionally been used for. I hope they engage in significant community research to make a nice fit between what town & local groups need vs. what will be designed/built. Thanks!
Franklin Tucker (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Dear Ms. McDermott: I know that the co-use of a new library and the High School has been discussed but there are real issues of safety for students during the school day. I don't know about a mixed-profit/nonprofit function for the new library. You - and all other residents - can have some question answered next Saturday at the library when the Trustees hold their mini-celebration from 10 a.m. to noon. Also, review the dozen or so articles on Belmont Patch concerning the new library.
aroots903 October 05, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Maybe the new library could house some of the overflow students from the new school that we just built.
Pax October 05, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Franklin, As "Lux et Veritas" points out (and as has been pointed out before), the Underwood Pool site is not large enough for a full size soccer/lacrosse field. Don't believe it? Print a satellite photo of the area, cut out the HS football field and try to shoehorn it into the Underwood site. You'll find that a full size field will extend from the sidewalk at Concord Avenue, over the pool, up the hill, almost to the border of the current children's playground. Here's an investigative reporting idea for you. Why don't you ask the city engineer how he proposes to fit a 120 yard field into a 70 yard space? The key points made by "Lux et Veritas" remains that the town departments have failed to work together when they had the chance and that if the library plan goes through there will be a huge loss of open space and playing fields that will negatively impact the high school. I use the library all the time and have no children in the schools, but I will vote against this if I have the chance.
labbrat October 08, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I've been a Belmont resident for about 2 years now, and I was shocked to see the state of the library when I moved here. For such a nice town with great public schools, parks, playgrounds, etc., it was bizarre to me that the library was so old and decrepit. If you think the current library is fine, I'd suggest taking a look at the libraries in some of the surrounding towns - Belmont's is an embarrassment by comparison. I really hope the new library gets fully funded, and I'll be happy to pay our share to help.
K. Bonnin October 08, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Labbrat - Love our library and would love to see an extensive renovation (which I think would still cost taxpayers less than what we would have to contribute for a new library). The current library has been allowed to fall apart for years by the 'Friends' and other new library advocate - the worse it looks, the louder the clamor for a new building, right? Kudos to the custodian - I don't know his name - but he is one of the hardest working guys in Belmont - keeps the place spotless!
Clare McDermott October 08, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Dalton- I know exactly the custodian you're speaking of. A Latino gentleman who's incredibly hardworking and friendly. Really nice of you to call attention to him.
Franklin Tucker (Editor) October 08, 2012 at 05:48 PM
I agree with Clare McDermott, thanks for noting one of the many hard-working custodians at the library. As for the cost of renovating the library, it turns out that the cost - which will include a brand new roof and infrastructure - will cost just about $10 million, the same amount the town will need to bond to build the new library. No funding advantage to renovating. fbt
Waverly Watchdog October 11, 2012 at 01:59 AM
I believe that is a ruse. From the estimates I've seen, and what I know about the costs of construction, a realistic estimate to repair what exists is far less that the proponents claim, and the cost of a new library will be far, far higher. It is but the first domino in a very, very expensive, Taxpayer funded, chain. BTW, I note that the Citizen-Herald has LOCKED OUT all comments about this issue. I can but wonder why?
Yorikke October 11, 2012 at 07:25 PM
This library has not been allowed to "fall apart" by the Friends of the Belmont Public Library, who have nothing to do with its upkeep. It has not been allowed to fall apart by anyone. It is simply old and worn out, and poorly designed to begin with.

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