The renovation and expansion proposal of the Great Neck Library's main building will be the topic at a Úquot;Town MeetingÚquot; hosted by the Town of North Hempstead's Supervisor, Jon Kaiman, on Monday, March 7 at 7 p.m. at North Middle School. A PowerPoint presentation will be shown that will take the public step by step through the rationale and plans for the proposed project. Members of the community will then have the opportunity to make statements and raise questions. A fact sheet has been prepared so residents will have something to take home and consider further before the time comes to vote. No date for a referendum has been set, but it is the goal of the library board to have a vote sometime during the month of May. A simple majority is required for passage.
Thus far, the library board has engaged a host of consultants to develop the plans and do the groundwork before the project can proceed to a vote. The preliminary work has cost $250,000 and has come from funds set aside in prior years. The biggest chunk of money has been paid to the architectural firm, H2L2, approximately $99,000. Included in that fee were the services of a professional estimating company, Accu-Cost, Inc. of New York City. Accu-Cost estimated the construction cost of executing the plan supported by the library board to be $15,893,193. The entire amount to be bonded is $19.4, which covers a wide range of costs over and above the actual construction.
The board also hired Frank Marino, president of Advanced Consulting Corporation located in Merrick, to be the project manager, sometimes called the Úquot;owner's representativeÚquot; or Úquot;clerk of the works.Úquot; In this preliminary phase of the project, Mr. Marino is contracted to be paid $65,000. The Record asked Arlene Nevens, library director, what Mr. Marino has done for the fee since the voters have not approved the project yet. Ms. Nevens said that Mr. Marino has already Úquot;been worth his weight in gold.Úquot; He has attended numerous planning meetings with the architects, environmental consultants, traffic consultants and officials from the town, the sewer district and so forth. According to Ms. Nevens he has developed an estimate of the Úquot;soft costsÚquot; that are over and above the estimates done by Accu-Cost, Inc.
For example, based on a May 2003 report from Mr. Marino, these soft costs include estimates for demolition of the elevator equipment/shaft, $18,000; separate water main for fire sprinkler system, $30,000; sitework, $54,000; removal and storage of entire contents of the library, $55,000; soundproofing, $24,000; library furniture, $100,000; asbestos removal, $85,000; Town of North Hempstead building permits, $35,000; soil borings, $10,500; architect's fee (based on $15 million), $1,514,238; project manager's fee, three percent of construction cost, $491,413; public relations consultant, $8,000; zoning attorney, $2,500; traffic consultant, $5,000; landscaping and irrigation, $50,000; book security system, $100,000; bond cost, at a two percent rate, $380,766. The items listed above are some, but not all, of the soft costs as estimated by Mr. Marino.
If the referendum is passed, Mr. Marino will play a crucial role as the Úquot;watch dogÚquot; of the project on behalf of the taxpayers to make sure that materials that are delivered are of the quality ordered and that the workmanship is competent. Úquot;In other words, he will live here,Úquot; Ms. Nevens said. She also noted a library in Suffolk County that has been recently completed that is already plagued by water leaks. She said, Úquot;We want to make sure that we don't have any surprises like that here.Úquot;
Mr. Marino has been the project manager for the newly completed $10 million construction of Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel in Rockville Centre; the Elmont School District's capital project, $2.5 million; and extensions at the Syosset Public Library and the Lakeview Public Library.
As reported in the Record in July 2004, Mr. Marino had stated at a library board meeting that with rising costs of steel and concrete, one could reasonably expect that construction costs would rise by one percent a month. When asked about why the library board has not raised the $19.4 million number to reflect rising costs in the ensuing months, Ms. Nevens said that the estimates for all categories have a cushion of 25 percent to cover contingencies.
That led to the question about what would happen if the project came in under the estimates. Ms. Nevens said that in such a case a number of things could happen; the bond could reduced, money could be used to upgrade items associated with the construction project such as landscaping. However, that money could not be used for things like purchasing books or other regular library expenses.
And what if there are overruns? Ms. Nevens said that the main library has a reserve fund of $1.1 million that could be used to defray unavoidable costs over the bond amount.
In regard to the bond, the debt service would be a total of $1.28 million. The bond would be comprised of a combination of short and long-term bonds to avoid swings in rates. As the work would proceed, bills would be submitted to the bond trustee and would be drawn against the line of credit, similar to a home equity loan.
If the referendum is approved, the library would be subject to SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review). Public hearings would be held to examine traffic, water resources, waste and sewage disposal, fire protection and the like. The lead agency would be the Town of North Hempstead and perhaps the town's board of zoning appeals. It would be determined whether or not to have a full environmental impact study.
Meanwhile, the architectural firm would be responsible for writing the all-important bid documents. Mr. Marino would assist and review the specifications. Ms. Nevens says that accurate, detailed bid documents can make or break a project. This is where the quality of the materials and the methods of construction are spelled out and how the library is protected from shoddy goods and workmanship.
Due to the fact that the library has the legal status of an association, it is exempt from the Wicks Law. This is no small matter. Ask any public official who has overseen a construction project about the Wicks Law and watch the eyes roll.
The law requires that public construction projects use three separate contractors for heating, plumbing, and electrical duties on projects larger than $50,000. Municipalities and school districts consider it the bane of their construction projects, driving up the costs by at least 10 percent, and making coordination more difficult and time consuming. (According to news reports, Governor Pataki is pushing to have it repealed this year, but the state legislature, under pressure from strong lobbying unions, has never succeeded in overturning the law.)
Another money matter of concern to taxpayers is the projected operating cost of a greatly expanded building. Ms. Nevens counters that since the major expansion of space is for shelving, not new services, there will be no need for additional staff. Úquot;Our cleaning costs are the only operating costs that may increase,Úquot; she says. The architects have promised that the energy costs will be substantially reduced because the new building design is intended to be much more efficient. (See the Great Neck Record, Jan. 27, 2005, Úquot;When Catch-22 is More Than a Book on the ShelfÚquot; for a detailed description of the Úquot;greenÚquot; aspects of the proposed building.)
When asked why more shelf space is needed with the advent of online books and ebooks, Ms. Neven says, Úquot;Books aren't outdated. Nobody wants to curl up with a computer.Úquot;