Why is this happening now? It seemed pretty fast.
This process did happen fast, although the town was committed to finding an appropriate solution for the Dighton Public Library’s operational challenges.
In an unexpected development, the town was given the opportunity to buy this unique historic property during fall of 2021. Due diligence was conducted by building walk-throughs with town officials, and appraising the site with an independent real estate appraiser. An investigation of an additional site for the library was approached by the town, with no response from that property owner.
Discussions of this potential purchase happened amongst the Board of Selectmen and Dighton Public Library trustees. In March of 2022, the Board of Selectmen voted to proceed with the property acquisition. The Dighton Public Library Board of Trustees voted to endorse the plan.
The process was admittedly quiet because of the legalities of purchasing property and the disappointment we would face if for some reason the purchase fell through. Now that we are closer, we can discuss the process and future of the library more clearly.
What needs to be done to the building to make it a library?
In order to manage the costs and work associated with readying the building as a public library space, the town is recommending renovations to be done in phases.
Phase I includes the transformation of the main level into a reading room, teen area and children’s area. It also includes weatherizing the exterior of the building, further increasing ADA compliance and working on the grounds and parking lot. In order to achieve this work, we are also asking Town Meeting to transfer $150,000 from the Capital Stabilization Fund. The town is working to identify other funding sources for this project.
Phase II work includes preparing the lower level of the building for more public space. That may be in the form of meeting or program space, or other designated library functions. An elevator would be added to improve access between floors. Community Preservation and Green Community Funds are targeted for this phase of the project, as well as additional state and federal funding.
What is the cost of the project?
In order to minimize the economic impact to the town, the funding is being approached in a few different ways.
The property itself will cost $790,000. This amount is very close to an independent appraisal of the property conducted by the town. The Dighton Board of Selectmen have already voted to pursue the purchase with ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds that were allocated to Dighton from the federal government. This capital purchase is an eligible use, and its use can be determined by the local governing body, the Dighton Board of Selectmen.
Town Meeting does need to authorize the purchase of the property.
An estimated $500,000 – $750,000 in initial funding will bring the building into an operational state to allow the library to open to the public.
How will this project be paid for?
The purchase of the building will be paid for with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The Dighton Board of Selectmen have authorized the use of these funds for the purposes of the building acquisition.
Anticipated renovation costs to convert the building into a library will be paid for in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, capital stabilization funds, Community Preservation Act funds, free cash and state funding.
What are the features of the proposed library design?
The proposed design was designed to meet the goals and needs of the Dighton community. There is much more designated space for study and individual reading, an area for teens, an appropriately designed space with kid-sizes for children (including a separate craft and programming space), and a larger space to hold collections. The new location will have an opportunity to offer outdoor programming and plenty of parking.
The library will also be ADA compliant.
Will the new library be accessible to people with disabilities?
This project will meet ADA requirements, including entrances, community space and restrooms. It will be compliant with current Massachusetts building regulations and code including those of the state Architectural Access Board which sets standards for physical access..
Can you explain the warrant articles to me?
Article 30 – By law, the town must vote in the affirmative in order to allow the acquisition of the building. A simple majority vote of Town Meeting is required for this to take place.
Article 31 – This is a request to transfer $150,000 from the town’s capital stabilization account for the purpose of starting the necessary renovations to the property. The town’s capital stabilization account is money the town has put aside for capital needs. A ⅔ vote of Town Meeting is required for this transfer to take place.
How much does the modular unit cost the town?
The first year of the lease, starting in August 2021, the town paid $30,000, which included the lease amount and the installation fees. The lease for the library’s second year is $20,000.
How much would construction of a new building cost?
According to Cummings US Construction Per Square Foot, government administration buildings cost between $606 – $733 per square foot (in the Boston area) in 2021. A single story commercial building costs between $318 – $381 per square foot (in the Boston area) in 2021. If we assumed the lowest cost at $318 for a 9,000 square foot new construction, that is $2,862,000. This is the cost at the lowest price point, a year ago.
This figure is only for construction – it does not include associated costs of professional fees that are associated with the building. By law, municipalities need to hire an Owners Project Manager to oversee their construction projects. There will also be fees to hire a structural engineer, architect and other professionals. This is also without taking into account the specific structural needs of a library (floors that hold shelves of books).
9,000 square feet is approximately the size of 207 Main Street and the addition/renovation of the Carnegie library at 395 Main Street.
How likely is it for Dighton to build a new library?
Over the past two decades, the town has considered l proposals to appropriate funds to match state funds for the construction of a new public library. The reasons for the lack of success of these proposals are fairly straightforward – competing public projects and lack of broad-based interest in borrowing funds to augment the state funds to invest in a new library. These factors appear to be well-entrenched in Dighton
Other potential solutions included the leasing of private space that may not be sufficient for the purposes of the library, which is also difficult to obtain in Dighton. The purchase and renovation of the unique property of Smith Memorial Hall is the most economical solution to the longstanding limitations of the existing library building.
With so many needs in Dighton, why is the library a priority?
The library is a building that is open to the public. It is the only space in the town of Dighton that offers materials and programs for all stages of life: children, teens, adults and elders. For those who use the library, the lack of this committed space is a disservice.
In order for Dighton’s population to even be allowed to check out materials from neighboring libraries, the Dighton Public Library must be open to the public. A taxpayer would never ask for a neighboring community to take on our trash removal because Dighton taxpayers refused to pay for this service. By not supporting the public library, this is exactly what you are asking for. It is a town service.
The Carnegie building has been closed since March 2020. The temporary solutions for library service we are involved in now are unsustainable for the community. Prior to the pandemic, library services were used at a much higher rate.