By LINDSAY CAREY
Town councilor and chairman of the state Library Board John Barry announced that the State Library has awarded Southington Public Library with a construction grant for $1 million to expand and renovate the library.
“As many of you know, the grant application can be very competitive and challenging,” said Barry, who credited Library Director Sue Smayda with the success of the grant passing. “This is largest grant at this time that the state Library Board can award.”
The proposed plan for the Southington Public Library will expand the now 21,000 square foot property to allow for additional meeting and programming spaces to be added, and also making the library handicap accessible.
“Southington’s population has increased by 30 percent since the library was originally built,” said Barry. “The project will renovate and add 23,000 square feet to a 40 year old library building that, in my opinion, is experiencing some severe space and infrastructure problems,”
According to Barry, the state Library Board agreed that expansion is required to address the space limitations, improve infrastructure, energy efficiency, handicap accessibility and upgrading facility for new technology.
“It’s really tremendously exciting and validates the hard work I put into writing the grant,” said Smayda regarding the state Library Board’s approval of the grant. “It’s good news for the library and for the town as well.”
Although receiving the $1 million grant from the state is good news, the project in total could cost anywhere from $10 million to $13 million, which means the work is not done.
Both Barry and Smayda stressed that the town will need to get behind this vision for a better and bigger library in order for this project to be possible. It is also a time sensitive grant.
According to Smayda, the town may not receive the grant until construction begins or maybe even after it begins, because the grant stipulates that the town has to commit to the project first.
“What’s ahead of us to inform and get input from the town,” said Smayda. “We’re going to be sharing information about the proposed library plan and getting input from the community through focus group meetings to find out what they want their library to be.”
According to Smayda, the Southington Library Board will be holding focus group meetings between January and June 2015.
After receiving feedback, Smayda said the group will work on refining schematics and detailed plans of the building. Once a more official plan is made, Smayda said the budget of the project will be finalized and that the current plan is to ask for a referendum in August 2016.
“We’ve got a lot of leg work to do,” said Smayda. “We have $1 million in our pocket and that’s a great thing, but it’s just the first step.”