By Chea Waters Evans
The Charlotte Library is ready to grow, and after three years of planning, supporters are ready to shift their efforts into high gear. At the request of the Selectboard, the library’s Bond Committee presented a proposal to the board on Dec. 17 to secure support for a $700,000 municipal bond, which would be presented to voters on Town Meeting Day in March. The bond would cover half of a $1.4 million dollar building expansion, the other half of which would be covered by private donations.
The project was initiated in December of 2015 by the Charlotte Library Board of Trustees; in the summer of 2016 an Expansion Committee was formed to steer the efforts, and in December of that same year, the Friends of the Charlotte Library, a nonprofit that was created to facilitate the original building’s construction, voted to move ahead with the project.
Since then, the Friends of the Charlotte library has hired an architect from Black River Design to work on preliminary plans for an expansion of the current building and hired consultants from CPG Enterprises to conduct a feasibility study in the summer of 2018. Both of these projects were financed through a private donation to the Friends.
The latest presentation to the Selectboard, which was the fourth time the library has presented to the board, went over the bonding process and presented ideas for securing funding in order to get the project started within the next year. The plan is to expand the building by approximately 2,200 square feet, which includes a meeting space with a separate entrance for after-hours meetings. There will also be more room for children’s programs, a bigger kitchen space and updated restrooms in a more convenient location.
The Friends are working in what library trustee Nan Mason called the “quiet phase,” which entails securing private funding from individual donors before an official, widespread capital campaign is conducted. The organization has already secured financial commitments for approximately $350,000 of the $700,000 they plan to raise for the project. According to Margaret Woodruff, the director of the Charlotte Library, the tax cost for a Charlotte household would amount to $5 per year per $100,000 of a house’s value for a 20-year period.
Beth Merritt, who is on the Friends board, said that private fundraising efforts are a clear indication that there is muscle behind the community support. “We have skin in the game now,” she said. “The fact that we have raised this money shows that the community values the library.”
“We’re really pleased with the way this turned out, and we’re really excited about the possibility, Smith said at the Selectboard meeting. Board Chair Lane Morrison expressed reservations about the planning and financing costs, asking why the library committees are eager to begin securing a bond before they have raised their full portion of the library’s funds.
Mason said the fundraising process is a slow yet deliberate effort. “Everything takes so much time,” Mason said. “This is a step-by-step process, and I feel quite confident.”
Private money is not required to present a bond for a public project to the Selectboard and the town; if the board should not support it, a petition can be circulated.
The Selectboard was reluctant to commit to supporting the bond proposal at Town Meeting, and suggested that the library committees raise as much as they can and come back to the next Selectboard meeting to finalize their ask for support. If the Selectboard does not vote to include the bond in the coming year’s budget, the library would need 10 percent of registered voters to sign a petition of support for the project before the end of January in order to secure a spot on the ballot in March. Mason and Merritt both said they were confident that the signatures could be secured if that situation arises.
As the quiet phase is getting noisier, the Bond Committee is eager to share more information with the public. A January 8 informational event at the Senior Center was planned at press time, and another will take place at the Charlotte Grange on Jan. 17 at 7:00 p.m.