CLEARWATER – The construction of a new Countryside Library, which has been in the works for years, got the green light at the Aug. 7 Clearwater City Council meeting.
Councilmembers approved the hiring of Oldsmar-base Ajax Building Corporation as the “construction manager at risk” and the expenditure of $7.1 million on the project.
“I pulled out my folder (on this project) and it’s pretty thick right now,” Councilmember Bill Jonson told his colleagues before joining them in the unanimous vote for approval.
As long as five or more years ago, there were talks about such options as combining the Countryside and East Branch libraries or just renovating them and keeping both open. For the past couple of years, the talk has centered on building a new Countryside Library, but the question was where to build it. Some residents wanted to rebuild it in its current location, at 2741 State Road 580, next to Fire Station 50. Others wanted it moved elsewhere. In the end, on May 1, 2013, it was decided that a location next to the city’s Countryside Recreation Center, on Sabal Springs Drive, would be best.
The city council approved the hiring of Ajax Building Corporation as the prime contractor in December 2013. Originally, the cost was estimated to be $6.25 million. But that number quickly grew by $852,668, to $7.1 million.
“That’s the guaranteed maximum price,” Barbara Pickell, the head of the city’s library system, told the council members at their Aug. 7 meeting. “It does include some funding for unforeseen items.”
The overrun was mostly attributable to “unforeseen items” and $679,157 for the design and construction of a new heating and air conditioning at the recreation center, according to a June 10 staff memo to the council. Other unexpected expenses included $68,081 for a sanitary lift station necessitated by the existing sewer pipes being too shallow, $59,406 because of “geotechnical conditions requiring over-excavation under (the) library footprint,” and providing LED lighting instead of fluorescent lighting. The LED lights are expected to pay for themselves in the form of lower electric bills over the first 20 years.
“The timing of the needed upgrade (to the recreation center’s heating and air conditioning system) coincides with the construction of (the) library,” the staff memo explains. “The chilled water system is estimated to save over $800,000 in energy costs over a 30-year lifetime, with an 11-year payback. Similar lifecycle energy savings are anticipated for the library. Hence, to optimize efficiency and cost savings, the upgrade will be included in the construction of the library…”
The new library will be a one-story structure of 22,404 square feet, according to the memo. Construction is expected to start this month and last one year. Once it opens, staffers from the city’s library department will run it, and employees of the city’s building and maintenance department will be responsible for the maintenance and repairs.