HomeEducationThe J.V. Fletcher Library expansion project has passed. Now what?

The J.V. Fletcher Library expansion project has passed. Now what?

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WESTFORD — Voters have authorized funding for the J.V. Fletcher Library expansion project at Special Town Meeting and authorized a debt exclusion at the ballot box. What’s next for the project?

In order to officially secure nearly $8 million in grant funding from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, Rainville notes that each vote must be sent to prove the town supports the project.

“I must send the certified votes for Special Town Meeting and the ballot vote to the Board of Library Commissioners,” J.V. Fletcher Library Director Ellen Rainville told WestfordCAT. “I’m finding what else I have to send before they can get the contract with the town.”

With proof of town support in hand, the MLBC will slowly release funding to begin design phase of the project.

“There will be a contract signed between the town and MBLC at the state level. After that, they will release the first 20% of the $8 million,” Rainville said.

She continued, “we will use that funding in calendar year 2023. Our designer selection must be repeated and then all of calendar year 2023 will be in-depth design development which will include the sustainability and net-zero features.”

Library closed during construction 

Rainville hopes by early 2024, the project will open for bids to select a contractor. By summer of 2024, Rainville hopes construction will begin on the updates facility.

“Library operations would move off site spring or early summer of 2024,” she said. “I’ve already included in the budget square footage costs for that, moving costs, storage costs. We would hope to mount the bulk of our operations at another site in Westford.”

She continued, “even if we have to keep stacks lower or further apart, we will have service desks, best sellers, a children’s rooms, our office space and maybe meeting space. It all depends on what’s available for us to use in spring of 2024.”

She noted library operations would continue as normal off-site, but that it would be over two years before staff and patrons can return to the updated J.V. Fletcher Library. A potential site has been explored, but no final decision has been made.

Funding the project

The Town of Westford approved approximately $23.4 million in taxpayer funding at an Oct. 17 Special Town Meeting. The project, which totals approximately $32.5 million, will seek its remaining funding through an approximately $8 million grant from the MLBC as well as $1.3 million in donations.

The Friends of the J.V. Fletcher Library have raised $350,000 of its $1.3 million goal.

“The kinds of fundraising we may look at would be things as strategic as naming opportunities in the building, 1,000 homes for $1,000, souvenirs from the champion black oak, etched bricks in the children’s courtyard, giant parties, etc,” Rainville said.

She continued, “we understand we’re asking for money on people’s tax rate. Anything they give in support of the library is tax dedication. We’re all collectively so thrilled and so grateful and so excited for the future.”

Formal groundbreaking is set to begin in June of 2024. The project is set to be completed by the second half of 2026.

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Ben Domaingue
Ben Domainguehttps://www.clippings.me/bendomaingue
Ben Domaingue has previously worked at newspapers in New Hampshire and is the Managing Editor covering Westford. He’s passionate about community journalism, photography and hiking. Email him at bdomaingue@westfordcat.org.