22 Aug 2014
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Penn Wynne Residents Emphasize Library Renovation's Importance

The Penn Wynne branch is presently last in line for repairs.

Penn Wynne Residents Emphasize Library Renovation's Importance

is sixth and last on Lower Merion's library-renovation agenda, and several supporters promoted their cause Wednesday night at the township's Library Committee meeting.

"Penn Wynne has had the third-largest circulation and we’re the smallest branch," said Nancy Isserman of the Penn Wynne Civic Association. "We’re very concerned that money will run out and we won’t get our project."

While the renovation to the Bala Cynwyd Library is next on the township’s agenda, the Board of Commissioners has not formally approved any project besides Ludington Library, and debate continues over the sequence and timing of the projects, Commissioner Phil Rosenzweig said.

Regarding the next project on the agenda, the estimated cost of the proposed Bala Cynwyd Library renovation has dropped from $7.8 million to $6.7 million, township and library officials said Wednesday, but no decision was made at the Library Committee meeting about whether or how to take the next step.

That next step would be to solicit bids for construction, but private fundraising to support the project and other library renovations is proceeding sluggishly, the president of the library foundation said. The township could opt to choose a smaller-scale renovation for an estimated $4.8 million.

After two and a half hours of discussion on other library matters, eight of 14 commissioners voted to postpone discussion of the Bala Cynwyd project, to the chagrin of committee chairman and Bala Cynwyd representative George Manos and others.

"I’m very disappointed with the outcome. I don’t think it’s fair to all the people who came out to talk about this," Manos said.

The $9.1 million renovation of Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr is still within budget but behind schedule, said Chris Steckel, director of Lower Merion libraries. Difficulties with construction issues such as refitting an elevator and placing roof drains this winter slowed the project, which is currently due to finish in June, with the library reopening in September.

Commissioners Scott Zelov and Lew Gould questioned whether the contractor should be responsible for subsidizing some of the extra costs incurred.

"These issues that caused the construction delay are design issues," Zelov said.

Added Gould: "Whether that’s a legitimate thing to spend the contingency money on is a very open question."

Steckel said $315,000 of contingency funding was built into the $9.1 million budget, and that amount has not all been used yet.

The director added that the proposed state budget would reduce by 2 percent the state funding to Lower Merion’s libraries, an amount that is typically about $200,000.

Lower Merion Library Foundation president Charlie Bloom told the committee that the foundation’s capital campaign, which focuses on getting large gifts of $10,000 or more, has raised $2.1 million of a desired $5 million, of which $1.3 million has been collected.

"I remain a cockeyed optimist," Bloom said. "I’ll be around until we get $5 million; it might just take a little bit longer."

Steckel added that the radio-frequency book-tracking security system at Ludington is outdated, which costs as much as $60,000 a year in book and media losses. She recommended a proposal for a newer RFID system that would cost about $210,000.

Commissioners also discussed whether to establish a new security system in all Lower Merion libraries, but no decision was made Wednesday night.

Clarification: This story has been edited to clarify that Penn Wynne residents sought "promotion" of the project in the sense of advocacy, not promotion up the prioritized list of township library projects.

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