Chapel Hill library on time and on budget

smansur@newsobserver.comJuly 23, 2012 

LIBRARY1-CHN-071612-HLL

Updated photo view of the nearly fifty percent complete renovation and expansion of the Chapel Hill Library complex off Estes Drive, Monday, july 17, 2012. Completion of the work is slated for January/February, 2013.

HARRY LYNCH — hlynch@newsobserver.com

— The $16.23 million library expansion that Chapel Hill residents approved almost nine years ago is nearly halfway done.

The project, which will add 35,500 square feet to the library, was 44 percent done in early July and is on schedule to be substantially complete by Jan. 30, 2013, said Town Manager Roger Stancil.

The expansion will provide more room for the collection and new meeting spaces for the community.

Library Director Kathleen Thompson said the meeting spaces in the old library totaled 1,000 square feet. The renovations will increase that to 5,200 square feet.

The new meeting space includes two large meeting rooms, two large conference rooms, one quiet reading room, and an expanded computer lab.

There will also be a new teen room, five study carrels, and two group study rooms.

“We are trying to create a space for community members to gather and feel comfortable,” Thompson said.

While the site is under construction, the library has relocated to University Mall on Estes Drive, which holds about 187,000 collection items. The rest of the collection is being stored in the Town Operations Center on Millhouse Road.

Construction contract increases

The expansion project is on budget, but the construction contract amount has increased $31,626, from $12,840,000 to $12,871,626.

The increase reflects change orders in the project, “some that reflect additional costs and some that result in savings,” said Catherine Lazorko, spokeswoman for the town. “The changes are usually a response to unforeseen conditions.”

In 2011, the Chapel Hill Town Council approved $265,005 to cover increases in the construction contract.

Library expenditures for 2012-2013 comprise $2.4 million of the total General Fund budget expenditures.

The council approved $210,100 to cover the expanded library services for the four months that it will be open during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Thompson estimates that $570,900 will be needed to cover expanded services for a full fiscal year.

Orange County contribution

In January, the council accepted an agreement with Orange County that will increase the county’s contribution to the library by 3 percent each year, until the allocation reaches 30 percent of the county’s total library budget by June 20, 2015.

The agreement also requires Chapel Hill to work with Orange County staff to identify possible partnerships between the two library systems.

Last fiscal year, the county paid $250,000 to the Chapel Hill public library and this year it will pay $342,986, which is 21 percent of the county’s library operating budget.

According to state law, non-Chapel Hill residents in the county may use the town library for free as long as the county makes any contribution to support the town library. Since about 40 percent of the library’s users are non-town county residents, some council members want the county to contribute more.

Council member Laurin Easthom, who voted against the agreement, said the heaviest burden of paying for the library has been on Chapel Hill.

“How are we going to justify 40 percent of people who don’t live in Chapel Hill and use the library for free?”

Mansur: 919-932-2008

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