Council approves more funding for new Busch Library

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 5, 2016


WARREN — Increased costs resulting from a protracted timetable to demolish and reconstruct the Busch Branch Library brought Warren’s top library official back before the City Council last month.

After a lengthy discussion on March 8, council members voted to put more money behind the project, now set to begin in April with the demolition of the existing library on Ryan, two blocks north of Nine Mile Road, and to conclude with the construction of a new building now slated for completion later this year.

Warren Library Director Oksana Urban told council members the project’s total cost had swelled by $702,000, an amount that would include construction costs and library furnishings.

Plans to upgrade the branch were put in place in 2012, two years after Warren residents voted to approve a 20-year library millage.

“Originally, we appropriated $1.92 million for the Busch Branch project. Time has elapsed and prices have increased,” Urban said. “We actually started this project in 2012 and it is now 2016. Prices have increased and in order for us to construct and furnish this branch, we have to request a budget amendment for that amount of money.”

In response to questions from council members about the jump in costs, Urban and Michael Malone, of Partners in Architecture PLC, the project architect, said there were notable increases in the costs of materials, labor, site work and technology.

Urban also said the scope of the project had increased from 6,000 to 6,700 square feet, based on input from city officials and library staff.

Council members ultimately decided to award only an additional $425,000, an amount needed to satisfy the recommended bid for construction.

Assistant Council Secretary Keith Sadowski said the amount of the increase “seems awfully high” as a percentage of the project. 

Council President Cecil St. Pierre went further, questioning the oversight of the project and the timing of the request.

“You’re coming here and you’re throwing some pretty big numbers around. Where is the oversight before it even comes to us?” St. Pierre said. “If we’re the only oversight, you’re coming here at a pretty bad time, just to say $700,000, we need some more money. This should have been brought to us before.”

Malone said the price increase simply reflected the cost of completing the project at this time.

“It is a little surprise. We apologize for that. Based on today’s dollars and cents, it’s what it costs,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot of flamboyant things in this building. It’s really pretty standard.”

Urban said the new Dorothy Busch Branch Library would include technology upgrades, multipurpose rooms that can be converted to meeting space, a children’s area and a teen room.

“It will be so convenient. The facility will be large, and the amenities there will be fantastic compared to what the public had at the Busch Branch Library,” Urban said. “We are providing amenities that a 21st-century library should have. It’s going to be a fantastic renaissance in the area, and I think patrons, the residents, who live in that area will be amazed that their dollar was able to provide such a wonderful service to them.”

Council Secretary Kelly Colegio, who sits on the Library Commission as an ex-officio member, said the increase in cost wasn’t the fault of the library administration.

“I know it’s not your fault,” Colegio said. “I’m looking forward to the day the library opens. I know the residents in the area are excited. I know it’s going to be something we promised residents when they voted for that library, and it’s been years. We need to see this through to fruition.”

Council Vice President Pat Green made the motion to approve an additional appropriation to satisfy the amount of the recommended construction bid, which was later awarded to Bernco Inc. in a total amount of $2,323,874.

Green said the roughly $300,000 in additional funds requested for library furnishings could be addressed later.

“This has taken quite a long time, and we probably could have gotten a much better price if we had moved along, but for whatever reason we’re here now,” Green said.