NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — After some discussion from the Narragansett Town Council, the body voted 5-0 Monday night to continue a motion brought by Councilor Patrick Murray which would have authorized the town staff to advertise a Request for Proposal for Architecture/Engineering services relating to the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library project, as well as a motion to restructure the Library Building Committee.
“I believe this is something that should have been done months ago to get us on track,” Murray said of the first motion, saying he wanted to get the process moving forward.
New councilor Richard Lema was the first to advocate for more time, saying he wanted to meet with the Office of Library Services and the bond counsel. “Once I get that direction, we need to do a workshop where we can put things in order, and once we put things in order-what we’re going to do, how we’re going to pay for it, how we’re going to move forward, I can guarantee you we’re going to move forward,” he said, saying he would want to table it before moving forward. “I just hope everybody else is ready to move forward, because once we get moving forward I’m going to be going. So I need to get my information first.”
Councilor Jill Lawler, who has consistently voted against motions relating to the library project, said she was set to meet with OLIS and obtain more information. “We need to have a better understanding of how much money needs to be fundraised before we can actually tap into bond money,” she said, saying that while she wasn’t anti-library, she wanted to be very fiscally responsible with how it’s funded. “I’m not ready to make that decision to go forward tonight… I know I’ve spent a while on this, we all want the project to move forward, however we need the fundraising to be more clear and we need some answers from OLIS about reimbursement.”
Doing nothing, Murray argued, would cost the town more than moving forward. “This is the chicken and the egg. We need to get that out there,” he said. “We have to move forward, I don’t understand. We’re going to build the library or we’re not going to build the library, there’s no middle ground here.”
Council President Matthew Mannix said his intention was to hold a work session with the Library Board of Trustees at the end of the year, putting a motion on the first meeting of January.
Finance Director Laura Kenyon, who was called up by Murray to answer some questions, said that if the bid was put out in the middle of January, the town could have it back and awarded by February, and received preliminary costs by May. The latest it could go out, she said, would be the January or February date so costs would come back before the final operating budget comes back approved.
OLIS reimbursement would come when the project is finished, Kenyon said, and the bond counsel’s opinion is that the total project must be guaranteed. “We would have to have in place funding for the total project, and that would be that we would then ensure the project would be completed to the people who are buying our bonds that there will be a library completed when they buy the bonds.”
Fundraiser Dan Barry, who has been hired by the library, said they had only started to raise funds after the purchase of the building because foundations would not guarantee funding without the building. They would make an announcement of dollar amounts in January, Barry said, because to do so before that time would be unprofessional and unethical. “I fundraised with the Tiverton library, they went through all the same things that you’re describing and I urge you to work with them as well to get some information,” he said, saying there was a potential that the plans needed may be donated as well. “We’re going to go to the Champlain Foundation, which is the biggest foundation for our fundraising. We need to be ready in April, if we miss April 30, we have to wait another year. They are waiting for us… I’ve got other foundations with the same problem. They just need to know what it’s going to look like, it’s a simple problem.”
After Library Director Patty Arkwright offered information about the questions that the council had, the council voted 5-0 to continue the motion.
The second motion relating to the library related to the restructuring of the Building Committee, which had been voted on by the previous council. While Murray wanted to reorganize the committee that night, Lawler advocated for waiting, saying she wanted to speak about it with OLIS. “What OLIS recommends and what OLIS requires are two different things. I also want to understand from our bond attorney’s perspective what does the bond attorney want to see as far as the building,” she said, saying that the council was not ready to move forward without getting answers from OLIS and the bond attorney.
While Lawler wanted to delay it to speak with others, Mannix said he wanted to keep the old committee and replace Lema, who had been appointed to that committee. “We don’t follow the recommendations of every consultant. Otherwise we can all go home and OLIS can take over the town library issue,” he said in response to Murray noting that OLIS would reimburse the town. “We want to make sure we have a building committee that philosophically is going to be doing what the town wants, now OLIS.”
Town Solicitor Mark Davis told the council bond counsel also has requirements to ensure state and federal law are followed. “Otherwise, the bond’s not getting issued,” he said, saying the council needed to be careful to ensure the committee would comply with both OLIS and bond counsel. “There is no library without the bonds.”