NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Before construction work can begin on a new library in Narragansett, town officials have spent the summer taking care of the administrative and planning process by hiring an architect and outlining how the funds voters approved in 2016 will be spent.
In July the Town Council approved a memorandum of agreement between the town and the Library Board.
“It seems like as we’re doing the project we wanted to be clear on how the money sources were going to go,” Council President Pro Tem Susan Cicilline Buonanno said. “We wanted everybody to have the road map for how the bonds were going to be used, how the library funding was going to come into play, and so we worked hard to build trust between the town and the working committee and the Library Board of Trustees to say we all agree with this.”
Bond counsel David Ferrara explained that after the town’s 2017 purchase of the former Belmont Market, $3.4 million of bonds from the $5.8 million voters approved remains to be issued.
“The memorandum recited where we’ve been and where we’re going and indicated the library is going to pursue the OLIS (Office of Library Information Services) grants with the town’s assistance,” he said.
It also outlines the working group, which includes the Library Board chair, bond counsel, library director, and town personnel such as the town manger and finance director.
“It sets forth how we’re going to bring this project to fruition,” Ferrara said.
The bond is only one component of funding along with expected state OLIS grants and campaigns to raise money through donations.
On that front, a second family has established a fundraising challenge for the construction of the library at the site of the Belmont.
Dan Barry, the Friends of the Narragansett Library’s representative for the Save Our Library capital campaign, said the family of Joe Healey will match every dollar contributed up to $200,000.
“When we started this campaign to save our library, we were blessed with the Murray Family Foundation $500,000 challenge,” Barry said. “We met that, we significantly passed that by quite a bit.”
The Friends group has set a $3 million fundraising goal for the project.
“The campaign is going very well, we’ve got brochures in the library,” Barry said. “We’re still around, raising money. During COVID we’ve raised over $1.6 million, which was hard to do. We’re now back on track to raise money and get everyone involved.”
The funds raised for the library will be placed with the town treasurer as encumbered money, Ferrara said.
Combined with $2.9 million of unencumbered and unspent bond money, the town would then be able to enter into a construction contract, Ferrara said.
The council has awarded a contract for design work on the project to HBM Architects, for $444,000 that would be paid for out of the bond funds.
Council members, all of whom support a library at the Belmont site, said they are pleased with the new memorandum of agreement.
“We were in this really combative environment for years,” Council President Jesse Pugh said. “We’ve moved beyond that and the town staff and the library board and the town council all need to be on the same page. It’s all laid out here, it says who’s responsible for what, how communications are expected to go, what the schedule is for all phases of the project. It’s just formalized.”
According to a schedule in the memorandum, final draft design documents would tentatively be complete in October, with construction bidding taking place in December and early January.
Construction would last one year, from February 2022 to February 2023.