Bala Library: Expansion vs Renovation, and Now or Later?
According to the FAQ posted yesterday, the cost of expanding the Bala Library is estimated at $3 - 4 million dollars over and above the necessary renovations (see question 16).
Coincidentally, $3 - 4 million dollars is comparable to the shortfall in charitable donations to the Lower Merion Library Capital Campaign ($2 million pledged, $5 - 7 million expected), which are an essential part of the library reconstruction project budget (~$5 million dollars in Capital Campaign funds are budgeted for library renovations according to the CIP).
$3 - 4 million dollars also happens to be the cost of the Penn Wynne Library renovation, which is scheduled last (2014 - 15) and is therefore in the greatest jeopardy.So what happens if we invest $3 - 4 million dollars above the cost of renovation to expand the Bala Library, and the additional $3 - 5 million dollars in charitable donations needed to fully fund the library renovation projects never materialize?
After Bala, the remaining library projects are all for essential renovations. For example, the Penn Wynne Library project entails ensuring that the library has adequate heat and air conditioning, and that it's accessible to everyone in our community. That's a far cry from the cafe and green roof that are being installed at Luddington or the additional 5,800 square feet of proposed space at Bala to "create a new entryway," "improve aesthetics" and provide "stroller parking" in the children's area.
So here's my modest proposal: switch the order of projects so that Bala is last. That way, we ensure essential repairs get done to every library (including Bala) and still have the option of expanding Bala if charitable contributions and/or township revenue forecasts improve.
If the renovation portion of the Bala project simply can't wait, then renovations should go forward without expansion, because our funding sources simply don't justify spending the additional $3 - 4 million dollars needed for expansion either this year or next.
While aesthetics (and even stroller parking) is worthwhile, that should never come at the expense of needed repairs.