New Prince William Libraries Come in Under Budget

| April 9, 2014 | 0 Comments | News

Supervisors heard presentations on the two proposed libraries in the Gainesville and Potomac districts Tuesday and considered how to make up budget shortfalls that would affect two existing libraries.

Constance Gilman of the Library Board presented on the Montclair and Gainesville Library Facilities. If they are included in the budget, the design for both will be completed in June. Construction could begin in 2015, and as Gilman said, “We can still anticipate the buildings will be on time for September 2015.”

Gilman said both libraries have come in 40 percent under budget. Back in 2006, the citizens voted on a bond referendum that would provide up to $42.5 to build the two libraries. The actual debt service on the libraries come in at a remaining $25.8 million, or total of $29 million include the exterior and interior designs, which have been paid for to date.

“It’s a good time to be building these libraries,” Gilman said.

Other exciting aspects of the library are their designs. Both include a lot of natural light. In the Montclair design most of the windows on second floor, but the open design floods the entire building with light. In the Gainesville design, most of the light comes in through first floor windows.

The Gainesville library will have a large children’s section, a large conference room, small quite study spaces and small meeting rooms. Gilman explains that these meeting rooms fit the needs of the community, and quite rooms have become a request as libraries have become more dynamic and consequently noisier places.

Gainesville Regional Library interior design

Gilman explained that existing libraries are utilized in the county and 333,700 residents borrowed books in the previous fiscal year. Both libraries are regional and designed to service 60,000 residents within a 15-mile driving radius.

Within the Gainesville district, the regional library will replace a small Gainesville Neighborhood Library which was only meant to house 20 people at a time, and is currently having a issue with its well water. In the Potomac district, Dumfries Neighborhood Library is in a neighborhood storefront, and was also not meant to serve the entire region.

Both the Gainesville and Potomac districts (especially in the Montclair area) have seen drastic population increases, Gilman explained, but Prince William has not met the needs of the growing population. As evidence, she said the last library Prince William built was Bull Run Regional in the Manassas section of the Brentsville District along Ashton Avenue was build in 1994. Since then, the county has grown more then 70 percent.

A further unique aspect of the two libraries is that they will house small historic homes on the property. The Barnes house, which is a historic post civil war African America home, was salvaged from the Route 234 widening. “Bushy Park house,” a late 18th century Prince William farmhouse, was moved from Catharpin in 2004 to make room for homes in Dominion Valley.

Those historic buildings will find their homes on the library properties so that residents can tour the facilities. Gainesville will be getting Bushy Park.

Gilman explained that the Potomac Library is slightly more expensive, due to the design and an underground parking garage. General fund expenses will be $4.1 million for Gainesville and $4.5 million for Potomac. The general fund includes debt service on the bond, and general operating costs.

Potomac Regional Library in Montclair

Gilman said they have already found some savings over the past two years in eliminating technology that has already become outdate

In light of the information about the new library, Supervisor Frank Principi (D) of the Woodbridge District asked about the need to possibly close Central and Dale City neighborhood libraries on Sundays.

Gilman answered that it all stems from a letter Manassas Park officials sent, saying the city might pull out of their partnership with the Prince William library system. Currently the city pays the county $500,000 to have library access within the county.

Gilman said they had to choose whether to cut back on services, materials or to close during certain hours.

Marti Nohe (R), Supervisor from the Coles district, said those two libraries serve the less fortunate in Prince William County. He said the only good thing about their closings is it would “put a spotlight” on the need to fund the libraries.

Principi asked if county staff could work with the libraries to help find more money, or if some money could be taken from the new libraries.

Brentsville district Supervisor Wally Covington (R) asked if there was any extra bond money? County Executive Melissa Peacor said no, because they are only purchase bonds for what they require, not the full amount. Peacor also said that no other projects are being rolled into the library bond purchase.

Principi made a formal request that county staff help the library find the money that might need in July to keep those libraries open on Sundays. He said they are not just limited to looking at library funds, but throughout the larger FY14 budget.

While the libraries are now on track to open in 2015, they still need to be formally included in the budget. They are currently included in the FY2015 budget, but that is still subject to change. Principi said he is very concerned about unmet needs such as public safety and mental health services.

The supervisors asked Gilman if the projects could remain on hold, if they needed to delay them a year or so.

“Yes,” she said. Should the building codes not change, the projects can remain on hold, although the price of construction may rise.

The location planned for the Gainesville library is on the corner of Lightner Road and Route 15 in the Haymarket region of the Gainesville district.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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