East Brunswick council endorses $8.7M library expansion project

VASHTI HARRIS/ STAFF

EAST BRUNSWICK–The Township Council approved a resolution in support of the East Brunswick Public Library’s anticipated $8.7 million expansion project.

The library Board of Trustees proposed improvements, renovations and re-purposing within the library facility and construction of additional space featuring an adult quiet reading room and a teen meeting space, according to the council.

The realized and anticipated population growth and the evolving role of information sharing through instruction and presentation create service gaps in meeting the needs of residents, according to the council.

Key elements of the expansion project include:

  • The creation of a new space which includes a 5,925-square-foot teen space, a 1,740-square-foot adult quiet reading space and a 985-square-foot seating area including a new entry vestibule.
  • Improvements to the existing space including parking lot improvements, ADA-compliant family restrooms, HVAC updates, small group study rooms, an expanded children’s area and quiet room.

The council approved the resolution formally establishing its commitment to the library’s expansion project on May 18 during the council meeting via video conference.

Although the total cost of the expansion and renovation plan is approximately $8.7 million, the trustees are filing a grant application with the state for 50% of construction costs, or approximately $4.35 million, according to the council.

The council approved the concept plan, anticipating a contribution of $3.7 million in township capital funds towards the 50% match required for the state grant.

“The ability to have a library construction bond is something that is done once every 20 years. It’s rare that the state is willing to contribute half the money to any funding for any type of construction or any type of work for that matter involving construction for anything, let alone the library,” Mayor Brad Cohen said.

Even if the library did not want to do any of the expansion upgrades, Cohen said it is still the township’s building. The township agreed more than a year ago that it would put $1 million into repairing the library’s HVAC system, which has been long overdue.

“There are problems with the entranceway, there are problems with the parking lot. This is all a way of being able to roll up some of these needs, along with the library’s internal needs all in one, and having the state paid for half of that. [This] opportunity probably will not come again,” Cohen said.

The East Brunswick Public Library Foundation will conduct a capital fundraising campaign to raise $200,000. The trustees have pledged $200,000 and fundraising to raise an additional $250,000 to provide the balance reach $4.35 million in matching funds, according to the council.

By approving the resolution, Cohen said it does not mean the governing body is obligated to anything but simply shows its support towards the project.

If the project’s application is approved by the state, Cohen said the governing body can then decide to go through with the plan, reject it, or approve it but not in the form it was originally provided.

“[The state] can decide to cut back on some of the things that we’re asking for and at that time, we would have the same choices,” Cohen said. “We could either go ahead and reduce the plan, alter it again, or reject it, or it’s even possible that the state could look at our application and reject it entirely, in which case we would have an opportunity to reapply.

“I think that we should take that chance and weigh our options when we hear back from the state. So to use my sporting analogy, I think at this point we should throw out a fishing net and see what we’re able to actually get from the state,” he said. “We could always decide if we want to catch? Do you want to get rid of some of it or do you want to not take it at all?”

For more information, visit www.eastbrunswick.org/129/Agendas-Minutes.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.