Future of Franklin library discussed anew

More than $300,000 in upgrades are being considered for the Franklin library, and an expansion also could be discussed.

Next month, library board members want to discuss what projects should be done, including possibly replacing the branch’s 28-year-old carpeting, upgrading and repairing the heating and air conditioning system and renovating restrooms. An expansion also could be a possibility, but it will be up to the library board to decide if that is needed, library director Beverly Martin said.

Estimates for the work so far total about $335,000, and the library district has money set aside that could be used for the work. The funds would come from savings and money borrowed to pay for architecture, design and engineering when the library was planning a new Franklin branch.

The proposed upgrades come three years after voters turned down a proposal to spend up to $30 million to build a new downtown Franklin branch. At the time, officials said the new branch was needed because the current building was too small to address future needs for special programs.

Now, officials say the proposed projects will improve the look of the library branch and turn it into a focal point in the city.

“We’ve said a couple of times that we need to do something in Franklin, and we’ve put it off,” library board member Diane Black said. “It’s going to fall on this board to make that decision.”

Next, library board members must determine when projects should be done and what issues need to be addressed immediately. Looking at the library’s strategic plan, an expansion or an addition would be necessary in order to provide all of the programs that they want to add in future years, Martin said.

For example, the library has wanted to add a space for business owners and children to use video cameras, editing software or sound recording equipment to make PowerPoint presentations, videos or other interactive media. With the current layout of the Franklin branch, adding such a space would not be possible, Martin said.

Next month, the library board will discuss whether to upgrade portions of the Franklin branch within the next five years or to wait until doing a possible expansion or addition to the building, Martin said.

“The Franklin branch, although it is a nice library, it is not what it could be. It was shot down in a referendum,” board member Todd Bemis said. “Franklin had the opportunity. They didn’t take it with a new branch. But we have an obligation to elevate that Franklin branch to something that is a gem in the city.”

The estimated cost of the three major projects — new carpeting, an upgraded heating and air conditioning system and renovated restrooms — totals $335,000. Portions of the project could be paid for with money in the library improvement reserve fund, which is collected from property and income taxes to pay for capital projects. That fund has nearly $94,000.

The library also could use up to $1.5 million left from a bond, which can be used toward architect or engineering costs, or any other development projects that are done prior to construction. In 2009, the library borrowed a total of $2 million for designing a new library branch and has money left. With how the bond was written, the money could be used for any project within the library system, not just the Franklin branch, Martin said. Other costs could be covered with savings, which the library has about $44,000 set aside for miscellaneous projects, she said.

Replacing the carpet would cost an estimated $75,000, but another charge the library would have to cover is moving the books to install the carpet.

“What’s not included in (the estimate) is a moving cost that could end up being $40,000 simply because you’re going to move every item in the building in order to recarpet it,” Martin said.

But both staff members and library patrons have mentioned the lackluster state of the carpet, Martin said.

The heating and air conditioning system is operating, but a few of the units that help circulate the air have stopped working, Martin said. When the White River branch replaced their system, it cost about $200,000, Martin said.

Estimates for renovating the restrooms would start at $20,000, but that would cover only cosmetic changes, Martin said. If the restrooms are renovated, they would need to match current accessibility requirements, which could lead to additional costs if restrooms need to be widened or reconfigured, Martin said. An architect also suggested the plumbing should be checked to make sure it is still working properly, she said.