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This portion of the library, at the corner of Willett and River streets, is the original Greek revival structure, donated in 1908.


Fort Plain Free Library announces massive capital project

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - Updated: 4:27 AM


C-S-E Editor

FORT PLAIN -- The Fort Plain Free Library will soon begin the first phase of an extensive, multi-year capital project that will substantially expand the facility while strengthening its foundation.

Z. I. Sanchez, of zStudio, an architecture, planning, preservation and sustainability firm, said that over the past year, "a wonderful, big picture plan" has been created "that will take the library up to 6,000 feet of patron unit space."

The library received a NYS Dept. of Education Library Construction Grant in September, 2013, for $116,000, though the funding cannot be used for more than 75 percent of phase one, which will include stabilization and infrastructure work in the cellar, including new gas and temperature control systems, the goal being to permanently move essential items from the reinforced cellar area in case of future flooding.

Because the Library Construction Grant requires matching funds, and with the project's price tag expected to surpass the allotted grant monies, the library will now jump start the fundraising phase of the project, wherein it will seek donations. Donors may also sponsor specific library spaces, or portions of the project.

The library will also continue to seek grant funding, the goal being to gather the 25-50 percent matching money (which is expected to surpass the expected $75,000 just for phase one) needed for each of the project's three upcoming phases. Currently, the library is waiting to see if FEMA will provide a grant to address water and foundation infrastructure damage, offsetting the Library Construction Grant money.

The library, which is unable to use their operational budget for capital improvements, "has done wonders already by finding funds for architectural and engineering planning," said Sanchez, noting that "no grant money received to date can be used for consulting."

The library is also looking for interested volunteers with fundraising and grant writing knowledge or experience. In the near future, an afternoon presentation will take place, which the community will be invited to attend.

This project has been underway for about a year, with Salamon Engineering Group, of New York City, creating all the engineering (structural, mechanical, plumbing, fire, etc.) plans. "The floods initiated the starting point with some urgency," said Sanchez, adding, "though it had been in the heart and mind of this library director, Whitney Hubbard, since before the floods."

Of Hubbard, Sanchez continued, "she has turned this library around when it comes to the amount of patrons and participation." Her perseverance, Sanchez said, will ensure that "the library can continue with wonderful social and educational programs for the next 100 years."

On Monday evening, a zoning board public hearing took place -- the last hurdle to obtaining a work permit and final approval, with the hopes that construction will begin before the end of August.

One grant application for the next phase must be submitted by the end of August, and the library is expecting word whether they received the additional funding this fall.

When the future phases take place, which will not only expand the library's patron space, but will remove additions that have been added over the years that Sanchez said "are totally falling apart", the plan is to move the circulation desk around the facility so that the library never has to close.

"Knowing how important the library is to the community, we never want it to shut down," Sanchez stated.

The original library is the portion at the corner of Willett and River streets. The Greek revival structure was donated in 1908, and "since 1908, has served this community very well," commented Sanchez. Additions include the children's room and the 1984 brick portion that serves as the facility's current entrance.

The project, including the demolition of the poorly constructed additions, has already been approved by the State Historic Preservation Office.

The project is currently out to bid, and the hope is that a general contractor and/or a construction manager will be named by the end of August.


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