The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 22, 2013

Library's Phase II on schedule to start in January

First phase to finish in November

By Kim West

—  The second phase of the new Athens-Limestone Public Library under construction in the former Kroger’s building on South Jefferson Street is on schedule to start interior work by January 2014, said library officials.

During the Library Foundation board meeting on Oct. 17, David Seibert gave a construction update about the Phase I exterior work to the 15 fellow board members crowded into the multi-purpose room of the present library at 405 E. South St.

“Bottom line, we’re winding up the first phase and completing the front (facade),” said Seibert, a member of the construction committee that is overseeing the two-phase, 38,427-square-foot project. “We’re going all the way up the front with limestone, and we’ll be very close to finishing that in two weeks.”

Project progress

The $2.7 million first phase began in June and is projected to be complete by Nov. 30. Seibert said the bid process will take place in December, with Phase II interior work to begin in January 2014.

A final price tag for the second phase and the overall project cost have not been determined since fundraising is still in progress.

The exterior has morphed from a plywood-covered plain building into a limestone-and-stucco structure with two outcroppings that flank a defined entryway.

Tall windows have been installed, with fresh landscaping ringing the property. Seibert, who has volunteered to paint the rusting guardrails overlooking the adjacent creek, said the paving of the parking lot would end the exterior phase.

Seibert said the first phase resulted in lower bids than expected, and predicted the second phase could also bring in competitive bids.

He said if Phase II bids come in at the maximum of costs projected by the project manager, Kerrick Whisenant of Limestone Building Group, then library officials would have multiple options.

He said they could opt for less-expensive acoustics and lighting fixtures, and that every construction project has built-in contingencies that allow for a lower final cost.

“Given the atmosphere of today’s economy, you’re going to have a lot of competitive bids,” said Seibert.

By the numbers

Library Director Paula Laurita echoed a point Seibert made at the July 29 board meeting, adding that renovating the Kroger’s building is cheaper than erecting a library from scratch. Seibert previously estimated a new building would cost $7.2 million at $180 per square foot.

“This has been the most cost-effective way, to renovate instead of building a new building,” Laurita said. “What we’re building is the state standard for our population.”

Debbie Joyner, library fundraising consultant, said she expects the foundation to meet its capital campaign goal of $6.1 million. She said several new private and corporate gifts have recently been pledged, with previous pledges of $787,117 being collected via scheduled payments.