The Lower Merion Board of Commissioners Finance Committee on Wednesday night voted 7-6 to recommend that the full board approve $4.4 million worth of construction bid contracts for the renovation project.
Commissioners Jenny Brown, Brian Gordon, Lewis Gould, Philip Rosenzweig, Scott Zelov and Daniel Bernheim voted against the contracts. Commissioner Cheryl Gelber was not present at the time of the vote, but later arrived at the meeting.
The Finance Committee recommended that contracts be awarded to the following low bidders for the library:
- Perrotto Builders Ltd. of Reading for general construction, total bid $2,424,800
- Electri-Tech, Inc. of Dorothy, NJ for electrical construction, total bid $743,800
- Dual Temp Co., Inc. of Allentown for plumbing construction, total bid $162,500 (AJB Mechanical, Inc. was originally the lowest bidder for plumbing, with a bid of $149,746, but the company withdrew its bid.)
- Myco Mechanical Inc. of Telford for mechanical construction, total bid $878,000
- Myco Mecanical Inc. for fire suppression construction, total bid $192,000
The low bids for the five trades and the asbestos abatement were a total of $4,401,000 million or about $600,000 less than budgeted for these bid items, said Christine Steckel, director of libraries for the Lower Merion Library System.
Steckel said the bidding process was “highly competitive,” with the township receiving 20 general construction bids, seven plumbing bids (although one bid was later withdrawn), 11 mechanical bids, 12 electrical bids and four fire suppression bids.
Total construction funding for the Bala Cynwyd Library renovation project—which is included in the township’s 2012-2017 proposed Capital Improvement Program—is $5 million, plus $2.5 million for all other costs, for a total project budget of $7.5 million, Steckel said. These are township costs not associated with the for its required work, which the school will undertake separately, Steckel said.
Although the Board of Commissioners has already approved the renovation and expansion of the Bala Cynwyd Library, some commissioners who voted against the construction bids said they supported renovating the library but not expanding it.
“Folks are satisfied, for the most part, with the library they have,” said Gordon.
Commissioner George Manos, who voted in favor of recommending the construction contracts, said because the renovations include making the elevator ADA compliant and this will take up additional space, renovating the library “without some expansion would make the library smaller than it is now.”
Commissioners who opposed the construction contracts for the Bala library also expressed concerns about delays to the completion of the Ludington Library renovation and a risk of cost overruns.
“We’re about to embark on a second one (a library renovation project) before we finish the first one and I think that’s a new fundamental concern of mine,” Zelov said.
Zelov said the low bids for the Bala Cynwyd Library are “appealing” but don’t outweigh finishing Ludington Library, which he called a “troubled project.”
When asked by Commissioner Gould, Township Doug Cleland told the board he did not have an estimate on how much additional money the Ludington Library project delays might cost.
“We’re trying desperately to coordinate this project…It’s been frustrating because the project is late and has some contract problems and cost issues,” Cleland said.
Cleland said the Ludington Library is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year and re-opened early next year. Construction on the Bala Cynwyd Library is also scheduled to begin early next year, Cleland said.
Board President Liz Rogan said she supports awarding the contracts because the bids came in under budget, the project includes a geothermal heating system, and renovations will make the library “much more efficient and safer” for library staff and patrons.
During public comment, several people asked the Finance Committee to support approval of the construction bids.
Bala Cynwyd Library board member Janet Golden said the library’s story time is so popular that registration is required, 44 percent of the library’s circulation is junior room materials, students go to the library after school to do their homework and area schools bring their students to the library.
“Our library needs to be renovated so it can continue to properly serve the young people and adults who use the library,” Golden said.
Kate Farrell, a member of the Bala Cynwyd Library board, said the library is needed because of the public’s need for Internet access.
Farrell said a recent Gates Foundation study found that the Internet is one of the most sought-after library services, and that includes patrons who have Internet access at home but still use it at the library.
The study found that patrons go online at the library for educational, healthcare and employment needs, and that people go to the library for Internet access when there is nowhere else to go for it, such as after Hurricane Katrina, Farrell said.
“Technology is not only not putting libraries out of business, it’s enhancing the need for libraries…We urge you to approve these bids,” Farrell said.
In a related matter, the Finance Committee tabled a vote until next week on whether to recommend that the full board authorize the township manager to direct staff to begin processing orders for the purchase of furnishings for the Bala Cynwyd Library renovation project in an amount not to exceed the total of $881,000.
Zelov requested that the board have more time to review the proposal because information about the library furnishings was not included in the packet of information the board received over the weekend and instead was part of a revised agenda.