pcozzolino@ricentral.com

NARRAGANSETT – According to the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library Board of Trustees, both the group and the Town are working closely with the state to realize Narragansett’s new library project in the Pier Market Place. $3.4 million is still available in authorized but unissued bond funding, after the town recently purchased the approximately 20,000-square-foot former Belmont building for $2.8 million to serve as the site of the new library. In 2016, voters largely approved a $5.8 million bond issue for the project. 

“By keeping the state in the loop, we hope to speed up the design portion of the project,” said Maury Loontjens Memorial Library Board Chair Laurie Kelly Tuesday night, speaking during a council meeting. “Of course, we’re hoping to maximize our reimbursement from the state. The board selected this predicated on getting up to a 50 percent reimbursement from the State of Rhode Island.” 

In April, the library board contracted HBM Architects, LLC for architectural/engineering services to develop the detailed plans and specifications for bidding and construction for the proposed conversion of the former Belmont Marketplace into a public library. Kelly explained the architectural firm, which is based in Cleveland, OH and has extensive experience building libraries, had submitted schematic designs for the project to the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services for “informal review and comment,” according to the library board chair. 

An advantage to having the state’s input, Kelly continued, is that OLIS has experience building libraries around the state and makes the process its practice.

“They know where a children’s room should go,” said Kelly. “They know red flags in design if they see them, if we stumble into them. This is just an informal review so that the design is still flexible.” 

The new library, according to Kelly, will require a large information technology component - that means many computers, monitors, cables and wireless internet set up, among other requirements, which will also be reviewed by OLIS. OLIS is the body which controls the amount the town will be reimbursed for the public library project. In order to get the maximum reimbursement of 50 percent from the state, the town would have to follow the suggestions as lai out in a 2012 library consultant report regarding the needs and drivers of a new public library in Narragansett, said Kelly. 

“That’s important because if we don’t meet all of the things specified in the needs assessment, our reimbursement could go down,” she told the council and public Tuesday. “If we didn’t have adequate parking, we’d be penalized for that.” 

Additional square footage was also found within the former Belmont Marketplace’s footprint, and about 21,000 square feet is now available, according to Kelly. This amount of space puts the building in line with the suggested size of a new town library as identified in the 2012 report, the library board chair said. 

About $1 million as a supplement to the $3.4 million bond will be needed when the town sends the final building plans to OLIS. Kelly said those who pledged during the new library’s fundraising campaign should be prepared to make their donations to the project by Nov. 1. 

“When this application goes to OLIS, which Nov. 1 would probably be the earliest we could do it, we need to have $1 million supplementing the bond,” she said. “That’s what our project looks like right now and we have to be able to show that we are fully funded for this project.” 

Kelly also maintained that the current floor plans of the space were too “tentative” and fluid for public reveal, though she said the plans would be made available at a future update to the council. Kelly and the board said they plan to regularly update the council on the project in a public setting as the library is designed and eventually built. 

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