South Brunswick library project on list for state funding; Legislature must approve appropriations

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South Brunswick Public Library

SOUTH BRUNSWICK – The South Brunswick Public Library is on a list to potentially receive state funding for expansion and associated renovations.

Gov. Phil Murphy delivered a list of proposed projects for the first round of funding from the Library Construction Bond Act (LCBA) to the Legislature on Nov. 5.

The LCBA authorized $125 million in state bonds to fund critical improvements to New Jersey public libraries. The bond issuance was approved by New Jersey voters in November 2017 and all applicants were required to identify a 50% match to fund their proposed projects, according to information provided by the governor’s office.

The South Brunswick Public Library applied for the grant in June, said Director Chris Carbone.

The library plans a multifaceted expansion, renovation and repair project in response to realized and projected population growth from mandated affordable housing obligations, according to information provided by Carbone.

The project addresses accessibility issues, insufficient space for community engagement and education, and HVAC repairs. The growth of critical library services is supported with expanded training and performance spaces, teen space and parking.

Highlights include replacing an extensive entrance ramp with a new lobby and elevator, renovating non-compliant restrooms into accessible family/caregiver restrooms and constructing a 128-seat theater and new meeting room. The existing meeting room will be divided into small group work spaces and the teen space will be enlarged.

The estimated cost of the proposed project is $7.173 million, Carbone said. The library applied for a grant for 50% of the cost, or $3.586 million.
The South Brunswick Public Library Foundation will work toward fundraising part of the required matching funds, Carbone said. The fundraising campaign will launch once it becomes clear if the project will go forward as planned or if it needs to be revised based on the grant awards, he said.

Thirty-eight highly rated projects from 16 counties across the state were recommended to the Legislature to receive funding from the act.

Currently, $87.5 million is available to be distributed among these projects during this initial round.

More than 129 applications were reviewed by a committee comprised of experts from across relevant state agencies, including the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Community Affairs, the New Jersey Treasury and the New Jersey Historical Commission, among others, according to the statement.

“From major building renovations to vital technology upgrades, this bond program will transform our libraries to better serve and be more accessible to their local communities,” Murphy said in the statement.

“I want to thank the state librarian (Mary Chute) and President (Dr. Merodie A.) Hancock at Thomas Edison State University, as well as our partner agencies, on their collaborative work toward this effort,” the governor said.

As required by statute, the state librarian, in consultation with the president of Thomas Edison State University, is responsible for the administration and oversight of the LCBA, according to the statement.

The New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority will assist the state librarian to ensure compliance and the post-issuance work related to this bond. The proposed project list is currently pending review with the Legislature. Once approved, appropriated funding will be granted to these projects.

“New Jersey libraries continue to respond to the needs of our communities and are working tirelessly to bridge the digital divide and keep residents connected to many critical services which have become all the more essential in recent months,” Chute said in the statement. “We are eager to see local libraries break ground on these much-needed projects, which will make library facilities safer, more efficient and more accessible for all people.”

“I am thrilled New Jersey has made this investment in our valuable library infrastructure,” Hancock said in the statement. “The Library Construction Bond makes a significant impact through crucial library improvements that better serve our residents and support the educational and community priorities of the state.”

The full list of awardees will be available when it is sent to the Legislature for Appropriation Act approval.

A second round of awards is planned for the first quarter of 2021.