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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The town of Narragansett’s plan to build a new library in the former Belmont Market building has received $3.1 million from the state.

The Office of Library and Information Services approved $3,143,522 for financing the project, Library Board Chairwoman Laurie Kelly told the Town Council on Tuesday.

“Really fantastic news,” Kelly said. “So many people have worked on this for so many years.”

Kelly and Library Director Patricia Arkwright signed the financing document last Friday, Kelly said.

The OLIS funding will be used to pay down a portion of the $5.8 million in bonds voters approved in 2016 for the project, Kelly said.

“That is significant because we have a 20-year stream of bond payments,” Kelly said. “The state then gives us a 20-year stream of 53% of that ($5.8 million) that includes not only the principal and the interest, but also our origination fees and legal fees for that percentage of the town’s bond.”

Kelly said that the immediate cost to the town would be about $2.65 million with the state aid included.

The project still needs a contractor, and choosing one will take place soon, according to Kelly.  

HBM Architects, the firm hired for the project, has prepared bid documents for the work and OLIS approved them, Kelly said.

Town Manager James Tierney said the advertisement for bids would be published Friday. Interested bidders would have until Oct. 4 to respond, he said.

“We’ll look at all the bids within a month and then pick someone to go forward with our construction project,” Kelly said. “We’re really on the cusp here, things should start speeding up after this long, slow project.”

The board has estimated it will take about a year to complete the work.

The board expects the project to cost $8.9 million in total. That includes the $2.4 million to purchase the former Belmont Market building at the pier in 2018 and $6.5 million to construct and outfit a library in it.

Of the total, $5.8 million comes from the 2016 bond approved by voters, $1.1 million from cash donations, $500,000 cash on hand in library restricted funds and a $1.5 million “bridge loan” approved by the council.

The project also received a $400,000 Champlin Foundation grant and the Friends of the Narragansett Library group has given at least $50,000.

Kelly, who is running for Town Council, thanked the current council “who embraced our vision, got elected to support the library and then followed through,” on the project.

Karen Shabshelowitz, a local library supporter, echoed Kelly’s appreciation.

“It’s very sad it took this town such a long time to move forward,” she said. “It ended up costing the town a lot more money than it would have if the leaders in town had moved forward in a positive direction from the beginning.”

The library project continues to be a political issue in town.

Two previous council members who opposed the Belmont project, former president Matthew Mannix and Jill Lawler, are running for election back to the council.

All incumbent council members and several other candidates support the project, however President Jesse Pugh is not seeking re-election and Patrick Murray is running for a state senate seat in District 36.

(1) comment

Fredrick O'B

A true waste of money and a prime location in the heart of Narragansett.

The town let Gilbane buy up much of the pier years ago, killing what could have been a vibrant and lively part of town. Instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to turn the space into somewhere that will benefit the town for years to come, the aging residents vote to spend millions on a library that could have been constructed for much less elsewhere.

In only a few short years, we've seen a historical shift from brick and mortar stores to online retail. With the invention of tablets purpose built for reading, and the ability to download practically any text to those devices, is it such a far fetched idea to think we will see a decline in hard book sales/rentals in the next 10+ years?

The town school system has great libraries for their students, and URI has a very large library for theirs as well. With a declining student population, as well as a mission to limit the number of URI students in town, its hard to use them as an excuse.

This is a very short sighted mission with no regard for the future generations of Narragansett residents.

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