City makes commitment to future library project

By Adam Strunk 

Newton has hired a design and fundraising firm for what will likely be a new library project.

The commission approved accepting a contract with HBM Architects at a special meeting Wednesday night at 5 p.m. concerning the upcoming project. The costs for the design and fundraising process are estimated at $1.45 million, however it will be split up in phases, allowing the city and library to opt out should they choose to not move forward. Costs could also change depending on the size of the project.
“You’re committed to the project and going through the phases,” City Engineer Suzanne Loomis said of the commission’s decision. “If we trigger it to go to the next phase, it goes.”

Payment for the development of a library plan, design and private fundraising campaign will be split between the City of Newton and the Newton Library Board.
Newton will pay $35,000 for a study to determine the best site for a new library project in phase one, which will last from now until November.

The Newton Library Board would pay $254,000 for phase two, which would last from October of this year to February of next year.

This phase would look at existing usage, needs for a library, what other communities need, and what the future holds and help come up with direction for a future Newton library. The city conducted both steps 13 years ago before the project stalled at a $10 million new library concept.

Phase three, also paid for by the Newton Library Board, would run $276,000 in costs and include concept design and marketing materials as well as a private fundraising campaign.
“We built a hospital in this community, a new Y with private donations,” Ann Adrian of the library board said. “ I have the confidence, with the help from Swanson House, we can learn from them and continue that fundraising.”

Finally, phase four would be the most expensive, and the design phase, should the project advance that far.
The City of Newton would pay between 9 and 11 percent of project design costs. Loomis estimated a new library would cost around $8.5 million and estimated that design costs would come in around $880,000.

That number could vary greatly depending on the scope and final cost of the library upgrade project.

Both the library board and city commission approved the plan to hire HBM Architects of Cleveland, Ohio, for the project. The firm is responsible for new library and concept designs for the Wichita Public Library-Central Library and the Johnson County Central Resource libraries and listed dozens of other libraries across the country it designed. It also was responsible for the last Newton Public Library design process.

A city memo on the selection of the group noted its massive experience in library design.

According to the memo, the selection committee liked the capital campaign presentation by a subcontractor of WMD Architects, Swanson House, and worked to merge services provided by the two firms into the single proposal. The overall agreement would be made out to HBM Architects.

The proposal also notes that if fundraising needs exceed $2 million for the project, an additional $72,000 will need to be ponied up for fundraising assistance to Swanson House.

The commission sounded off on the proposal before approving it. Commissioner Leroy Koehn noted that projections for $2 million of private fundraising for the project are lower than he would prefer.

The city would pay for the majority of any sort of library project, with the Newton Library Board agreeing to kick in $65,000 annually for the duration of the costs. Private fundraising would help offset the cost.

Koehn asked City Finance Director Donna Pickman to provide some information on what the city debt service would be if it committed between $4 million and $6 million to the project.
Assuming that $2 million is raised privately on an $8.5 million library, and factoring in the library board’s contributions, city debt service on such a project would be around $495,000 a year on a 20-year loan with a 4-percent interest rate, Pickman said.
City contributions could end up less or more than that amount, depending on what the city commission would decide.

Eventually, Mayor Kathy Valentine asked what the commission needed to do.
“What we’re asking is if the city sees this as an important vision for the community and if the vision is for a new library,” Loomis said. “If you don’t want to move forward, there’s no point for phase one and if this is a priority for the city.”
Commissioner Barth Hague made the motion to move forward. Valentine seconded.

The vote passed 4-1, with Commissioner Glen Davis dissenting.

“I’m not against it, but I wanted more time,” he explained. “I think we move too fast sometimes.”

Commissioner Rod Kreie put in his two cents after the vote.
“I would like it noted that we really need to stay on top of this so it doesn’t get away from us and we really push hard to get community members together to see if this is what it really wants.”

Hague said he agreed and wanted to move forward armed with good information.
“We need to have the total vision and direction for the community,” he said. “I really hope that’s job one for the commission moving forward for the next year.”
The approval of the contract is pending the Newton City Attorney review.

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