Rewriting the book on renovation

Alternate library project proposal would save city about $175,000

BIG RAPIDS — Members of the Library Renovation Team building subcommittee advised city commissioners on Monday they are supporting an alternate proposal to the library renovation project that will save the city about $175,000.

PRELIMINARY DESIGN: Architect Pat Birtles (left) talks about his preliminary design for the Big Rapids Community Library during the city commission retreat on Monday. A building subcommittee is recommending a proposal that would save the city about $175,000. (Pioneer photo/Jonathan Eppley)

PRELIMINARY DESIGN: Architect Pat Birtles (left) talks about his preliminary design for the Big Rapids Community Library during the city commission retreat on Monday. A building subcommittee is recommending a proposal that would save the city about $175,000. (Pioneer photo/Jonathan Eppley)

The building subcommittee has been working with architect Pat Birtles to rework the original $1 million proposal. Birtles, owner of Cadillac-based PKB Architects, joined commissioners during a retreat session on Monday at the library to give them a walking tour of the facility, with the goal of providing a visual update of where renovations need to be made.

The alternate proposal reduces the cost of the project to about $825,000. Proposed cuts include nearly $55,000 in interior remodeling; $9,000 in alarms, electrical and communication costs; $20,000 by not replacing the exterior cornice; $25,000 in library furnishings; $60,000 by not replacing windows; and $5,000 by not updating informational signage.

BASEMENT RENOVATION: Architect Pat Birtles and Big Rapids Library Board chair Jerena Keys check out the basement of the library. Most of the basement will be updated to store book in a temperature-controlled environment under an updated renovation proposal.

“The building subcommittee has taken the original proposal, reconsidered it, refined it, met with Pat Birtles and they think they can save us another roughly $175,000,” said City Manager Steve Sobers. “That’s going to go back to the renovation team as a whole next week, and if they endorse it it will come back to the library board before going to the city commission (to give Birtles the go ahead to start designing the building).”

The original renovation proposal called for waterproofing around roughly 75 percent of the exterior basement walls. The alternate proposal includes the addition of a $15,000 option to waterproof the remaining 25 percent basement.

The library has a history of water seeping into its basement. The ground around the basement exterior walls will be excavated to waterproof the stone and mortar walls.

The city has about $250,000 reserved for the project and Sobers expects an additional one-third of the total cost — or between $300,000 and $350,000 — to be raised through donations and fundraising efforts. The remainder of the project cost likely would come from a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan.

Birtles has yet to lay out designs for the library, and, thus far, has only submitted estimated proposals to city and library officials.

The renovation team will review the subcommittee’s proposal to recommend to the library board during its next meeting at 4 p.m. on May 9 at City Hall. The library board’s next regular meeting is at 7 p.m. on May 10 at the library.

Mayor Mark Warba is urging the renovation team and the library board to come to an agreement to submit a proposal to the city commission by its June 4 meeting.

“There’s time and opportunity to review the proposal by both the library renovation team and the library board by June,” Warba said. “This has taken a lot of time, effort, passion and desire with no financial incentive except to do what’s best by the library and this community. … There’s momentum behind the library renovation project, and this is a plan that I can get behind.

“If we’re going to do something, we have to do it and now is the time to do it.”

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Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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