Thursday, July 26, 2012

Public Library Construction Grant Denied as Library Infrastructure Issues Continue

The Plainfield Public Library District received official notification that its application for an Illinois Public Library Construction Grant was denied. The grant program offered $50 million in funding for libraries across the state. Applications from Illinois public libraries exceeded $112 million in total requests. With grant scores based primarily on building age and date of last major renovation, the main library’s 1991 construction and 1996 addition placed it in the middle range for these grant scoring elements.
In the meantime, the historic heat wave gripping the area exacerbated the Library’s ongoing issues with its HVAC system. Repeated failures have plagued the system since major components passed their 15-20 year life expectancy, from roof top units to the antiquated, DOS-based controls. In recent years, annual repair costs have ballooned to tens of thousands to keep the system functioning. A building evaluation completed by KJWW Engineering in February place capital needs for the buildings infrastructure at over $400,000 for the most immediate replacements needed: HVAC system, shingled roof and windows in the Bay Window area.
When the library was expanded in the early 1990s, the operating rate referendum to properly fund the operations and maintenance of the building failed. Drastic cuts to operating hours were made in 1993, reducing hours open to 48 per week. Due to the housing boom that began at about that time, the Library was able to reinstate operating hours to 64 per week and 68 during the school year with the addition of Sunday operating hours during the school year to meet demand. In 1997, the Library was able to implement a small fee to developers annexing and subdividing property in the district through an intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Plainfield. Collection of these fees allowed the Library make internal changes to the building necessary to serve the growing community, such as removing built-in service desks, adding shelving and replacing carpet. As the collection of those fees dwindled with the housing bust, external sources of funding for capital replacement needs, such as the Illinois Public Library Construction Grant were pursued. A 2009 State of Illinois Capital Bill Grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, through Rep. Tom Cross, was funded to reimburse the Library for its 2010 purchase of the parking lot on Route 59. Those funds have not yet been released by the State of Illinois.
The escalating issues with the HVAC system made its replacement the top priority for the Library Board of Trustee this fiscal year. Currently, KJWW Engineering is creating the specifications and bid package for the HVAC replacement project. The anticipated timeline places posting of the bid notice in August, bid opening and contract award in September and project construction in late October to early November. Project construction will be dependent on factors such as lead time for obtaining replacement roof top units and weather. The Library will be closed at time during the construction phase. Residents are encouraged to check our web site, Facebook or call ahead when planning to visit the Library this fall. Replacement of the shingled roof and windows in the Bay Window Area are also slated for fall 2012.