Marlborough celebrates topping off ceremony for library project

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A project worker watches as a beam is hoisted into place at the site of Marlborough’s ongoing library project. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough’s library project marked a major milestone this week, with local leaders and project staff gathering at the library site for a topping off ceremony. 

Noting a moment of celebration in the multi-year renovation effort, officials also acknowledged a recent cost overrun as they looked toward the next steps in the project.

“This is yet another step in this wonderful project, and we’re so proud and pleased and thrilled that so much progress has been made,” Library Director Margaret Cardello said. 

‘It’s really exciting’

Held on Wednesday morning, the topping off ceremony saw officials, including Mayor Arthur Vigeant, city councilors and state legislators, gather on Witherbee Street alongside other supporters of the project.

Attendees reflected on the renovation, which will ultimately expand the library’s offerings with a largely new facility. 

While the library’s most historic portion, originally supported by a grant from Andrew Carnegie, still stands, the rest of the structure was demolished to make way for this renovation. 

A skeleton of steel now soars over the eastern end of Marlborough’s downtown area as crews shape the new library space.

“It’s really exciting,” State Rep. Danielle Gregoire said. 

Officials celebrate collaboration

Attendees of Wednesday’s ceremony signed a final beam before cheering as crews hoisted and secured it in place. 

Speaking roughly six years after initial committee discussions about library renovations began, Vigeant lauded collaborative work that he said helped make the project possible.

“We are lucky here in the city of Marlborough to have a very cooperative government,” Gregoire later said. “We work together really well.”

The project has drawn funding from multiple sources, securing a nearly $10.2 million grant from the state Board of Library Commissioners to offset part of a roughly $27.4 million bond approved by the Marlborough City Council.

The Marlborough Public Library Foundation, meanwhile, is fundraising for its own $2 million portion of the project.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge noted this work, highlighting a $300,000 earmark recently identified in the state budget process to go toward the library. 

He commended the efforts of the Library Foundation and spoke on the value of the library itself. 

“It’s not just about people reading,” he said. “It’s not just about people accessing DVDs and music and the internet. It’s also a place for the community to come together.”

Officials address cost overrun

While guests gathered on the back side of the library on Wednesday, crews had recently discovered multiple issues on the building’s historic front facade. 

The steel reinforcements in the library’s terra cotta roof were found to have rusted and rotted. That prompted Vigeant to request $1 million in additional funding from the City Council last month. 

Referred to the council’s Finance Committee, the matter was then up for discussion on Wednesday, mere hours after the topping off ceremony.

At a meeting, the Finance Committee voted 4-0 to endorse Vigeant’s transfer request.

Public Works Commissioner Sean Divoll detailed options in a presentation to councilors, explaining that crews could completely replace the system with modern materials. 

Alternatively, they could restore what is already present.

“To me, I think it makes most sense to keep what is there and put it back into a historically delicate manner so that it looks like it did in 1903,” Divoll said.

He continued in later responses to City Councilors’ questions, explaining that this issue would not affect the overall timeline of the library renovation.

He also cautioned that the $1 million figure would remain an educated estimate until crews could disassemble the terra cotta. 

Ultimately, Divolli said these issues could have eventually led to a collapse if left unaddressed.

“I think we actually got lucky,” he said.

‘It’s going to make a difference’

The library project is expected to be completed at some point in the spring of 2023. Meanwhile, library operations have been displaced for the time being and are currently taking place in the halls of the nearby Walker Building. 

Back on Wednesday morning for the topping off ceremony, officials discussed the future of the renovated library.

“It’s going to make a difference in the lives of Marlborough residents for generations to come,” Gregoire said.  

“You’re all part of the history of this wonderful project,” Cardello later added, referencing those who signed their name on the final library beam. “You’ll be a part of the library for a lifetime and beyond.”

See full library hours at https://www.marlborough-ma.gov/library/pages/hours-directions.

And learn more about the Library Foundation and its capital campaign to support the library project at https://www.marlborough-ma.gov/library/mpl-foundation.

Additional reporting by Stuart Foster

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