Library construction plans change

The Schenectady County Public Library’s central branch will not close for expansion July 1 as origin

The Schenectady County Public Library’s central branch will not close for expansion July 1 as originally planned. It also may not build all of what was considered much-needed space.

Officials announced Saturday that the county will solicit additional bid requests for revised construction plans, with the hope that the alternatives will cost less than the current $7.7 million plan, tackle many of the same overdue updating priorities and close the library for considerably less than the 10 to 12 months forecast, which drew a firestorm of protest.

“We wanted to get the information that we’re looking at some other options into the hands of the community,” said county Legislator Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, chairman of the county Legislature’s education and library committee.

Now, construction won’t happen until the end of summer at the earliest, since officials have postponed the deadline to seek the additional bids. They had planned to review bids May 22.

Friends of Schenectady County Public Library President Bernard Allanson said then he thought the Legislature pushed the original project through without public discussion. On Saturday, he was encouraged to hear officials were backing off.

“I would say that the public has had a significant impact on the Legislature. I applaud the Legislature for listening,” he said.

Hughes said the new plan was announced to address concerns from the public and county officials themselves about closing the library for so long.

The county Legislature is still accepting bids for the original plan, which aims to add 9,000 square feet to the first floor. In addition, in the coming weeks county legislators will ask for bids for two alternate approaches.

The main thrust is still to take care of overdue improvements to the 40-year-old building and its systems, such as heating, air-conditioning and other mechanicals, considered 75 percent of the original project. But rather than expand for the needed space, the additional bid requests emphasize updating existing space to use it more efficiently for programming, thus avoiding closing the library branch for the lengthy period of time believed necessary.

Officials said they believe the they can limit closings to a matter of weeks, which could be staggered or broken up to minimize patron disruption.

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