Amsterdam Free Library receives state aid for ‘cool’ upgrades


AMSTERDAM — The “cool factor” at the Amsterdam Free Library will receive a boost from a $353,260 state funding award to replace the facility’s air conditioning systems and related infrastructure with energy efficient hardware.

The funding was included among the $508,140 in state funding for library construction projects distributed to five institutions in Albany, Montgomery and Ulster Counties announced this week by Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-Saugerties.

“Libraries are the cornerstones of healthy communities, especially in our small towns and rural areas where many residents rely on their local library as a primary point of internet access, a connection to trusted educational resources, and for opportunities to build community with neighbors through activities and services,” Hinchey said in a prepared statement.

“Throughout this pandemic, our libraries have proven themselves to be indispensable, and as we look to the future, it’s clear that we need to provide these aging facilities with the resources to fund upgrades and repairs so they can continue to function as our go-to community hubs,” Hinchey continued.

The state funding award to the Amsterdam Free Library will cover 75% of the cost to replace air conditioning and related plumbing throughout the building with energy-saving units. The work will also involve the restoration of plaster ceilings, woodwork and walls.

Library Director Nicole Hemsley on Tuesday said the funding will be used to replace a pair of existing wall units on the lower levels of the library that no longer work and an aging system located on the top floor of the library.

Though still functional, Hemsley said the cooling system on the top level of the library is inefficient and noisy. Components of the system are also hanging down from the ceiling after becoming exposed during work to repair damage caused when a portable hydraulic lift parked outside of the library caught fire in June 2017.

The lift was parked in front of the library entrance where it had been used for roof work. The equipment rolled forward against the building when it caught fire early one morning. The Amsterdam Fire Department quickly extinguished the blaze that had begun spreading to the building. Most of the damage was limited to the exterior of the library.

However, Hemsley said issues related to the mounting of the upstairs cooling system were exposed when drop ceiling panels were removed during work to repair interior smoke damage.

The state aid will be used to remove the system components and repair the plaster and other aspects of the historic library building that were disrupted by the installation of the existing unit. An upgraded cooling system with venting will be installed upstairs to replace the current system.

The failed air conditioners in the lower levels of the library will also be replaced with modern, energy-efficient wall-hung units to limit alterations to the Andrew Carnegie library building that was constructed in 1902

“This will take care of the original building with as little damage to the fabric of the historical library as possible,” Hemsley said.

The total cost of the work was originally estimated at $471,246 when Hemsley submitted the funding application last year. She acknowledged that escalating construction costs related to the pandemic could impact the price tag, although Hemsley is hopeful that the seeming stabilization of some material costs recently are part of a continuing trend.

“It’s great that this construction aid is earmarked precisely for libraries and being able to do this kind of work that we couldn’t afford. Otherwise there is no way we could come up with $450,000 to do this work,” Hemsley said.

Still, the library must contribute a 25% matching share toward the project as part of the state funding program, meaning the not-for-profit must supply $117,986 toward the planned work. The library is currently raising funds to cover its share by running a Cool Cash Raffle.

The library is selling 1,000 tickets for $20 each to enter the raffle that will be drawn during Oktoberfest with a $2,000 cash prize for first place, $1,000 for second and $500 for third. Tickets are currently available for purchase.

“Statistically the odds of winning are good,” Hemsley said.

The library is currently developing plans for additional fundraising activities that will likely take place sometime next year.

The timeline for the air conditioning project has not yet been determined. Hemsley indicated the work will be rolled into the expansion and renovation project currently being planned for the library.

The $4.3 million project will restore some of the historic characteristics of the original library while improving accessibility and creating several new spaces in an addition that will be constructed on the rear of the building.

The expansion and renovation project is partially funded through a $1.8 million allocation from the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative state grant. The library has additionally secured $800,000 in funding from Empire State Development and approximately $1 million through the State Aid for Library Construction Program for the project.

The city has also sponsored a Consolidated Funding Application from the library seeking a $750,000 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that would close the funding gap for the project.

Design and engineering work on the project is targeted for completion early next year with the start of construction eyed for the spring. Construction will be staged to coordinate work on overlapping components as much as possible to avoid disruptions to library services and limit disturbances to the historic building itself.

“We’re trying to make sure we consolidate as many projects into one as we can,” Hemsley said. “We’re really trying our best to do right by this historic building, taking care of it as best as we can and helping ensure it’s here for another 100 years at least.”

Initial concept drawings related to the expansion and renovation project can be viewed at the Amsterdam Free Library at 28 Church St. during normal hours. Tickets to enter the Cool Cash Raffle can be purchased at the library, at the library’s booth during ItaliaFest on Saturday or online at

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