By Joan Goodchild, Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – The Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen voted unanimously at its Aug. 9 meeting to move a Shrewsbury Public Library renovation and expansion project forward after receiving good news about state grant money for the construction.
Library trustees got word earlier in the week that the state would be funding a $7.96 million grant for the project by July 2014 at the latest. Trustees met with the selectmen in a joint meeting to update them on the news and to assure them that the amount would not change or be revoked.
Laurie Hogan is the chair of the Shrewsbury Public Library Board of Trustees.
“The grant amount will not change,” Hogan said, “If we choose to wait three or four years that amount will not increase.”
The news follows a roller coaster ride of emotion for library officials who were told earlier this summer that while Shrewsbury's construction grant application for $8 million in funds to renovate the building was approved by the state, the town's proposal had been placed on a wait list along with 15 other communities as part of the state's five-year capital plan. There was no indication from state officials how long that wait might be.
Shortly after receiving word about being wait-listed, Library Director Ellen Dolan was told by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners that the project could be covered under a different source of money, a current capital bonding authorization that was approved in 2008.
Library officials want to use the funds to cover a portion of an $18.7 million renovation, which includes plans to maintain a section of the library constructed in 1903 and replace an addition built in 1979, as well as add on to the current building.
With a firmer timeline now for when the funds would be forthcoming, the selectmen agreed to bring the question to voters in September about appropriating money for the renovation project and noted that construction costs are lower than ever now. The town may choose to borrow money and advance the construction soon to take advantage of lower building costs.
A Special Town Meeting on the project will be held Monday, Sept. 26. A town-wide election in October will ask voters to approve a debt exclusion for the project.
In other news, the board asked Town Manager Daniel Morgado about the town's fiscal position amid the recent credit-rating downgrade the United States has received from Standard and Poor's. Morgado said the town's financial situation is strong and that Shrewsbury “continues to hold its own.”