By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Now that library trustees have consulted with Concord attorney Biron Bedard, they are looking to the next steps in solving their problem of a crowded building with fire and safety code violations.
Trustee Duncan McNeish said a quorum of board members, with alternates, attended the nonpublic session Thursday, Jan. 19, with Bedard. Now, the board is asking Bedard to come up with his suggestion for a warrant article or articles for Town Meeting.
Already, the board has unveiled a pair of choices. Cost to stay at the existing library, including renovations to the 3,300-square-foot historic building and construction of a 12,000-square-foot addition, would reach $4.145 million, according to library board consultant Ron Lamarre. The town could build a 14,000-square-foot library for $3.15 million on the "Robertson property," a parcel of land at Parade Road and Route 3, Lamarre told selectmen on Jan. 9.
Phil Warren, town manager, confirmed that he still thinks that voters should be asked to support placing $50,000 in an expendable trust fund, with $30,000 to support a feasibility study on use of the Robertson property. This would be a de facto "yes or no" question about moving, he said.
In an email to The Laconia Daily Sun on Jan. 17, Warren wrote, "It is my recommendation that the Select Board insert a warrant article to create an Expendable Trust Fund for the explicit purpose of funding costs relative to the relocation of the Meredith Library to the 'Robertson' property and to deposit $50,000 into that fund. No formal vote has been taken at this time by the Select Board; the Capital Improvements Committee has made the same recommendation."
Once Bedard returns with his advice, tentatively at a library board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24, McNeish said he expected several of the library trustees and librarian Erin Apostolos to meet with Warren and talk about the town warrant.
Bedard, who lives in Meredith, is managing director of Ransmeier & Spellman P.C., a law firm with offices in Concord and Alton.
Bedard and fellow attorney Andrew Livernois are both assisting the library board.
Trustees are wrestling with the task of convincing voters that the historic Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library building — an ornate multi-level building — no longer suffices as a home to the public library. Limited parking, space and accessibility are among the chief complaints, but trustees point to more serious concerns, such as fire and safety code violations particularly on the second and third floors.
Over two years ago, the library trustees formed a Library Master Plan Committee and hired a library consultant to analyze space needs. A library planning committee, regarding a public forum at the time, reported, "There is a clear and identified lack of space. This is true of collection space, meeting space, quiet space, and parking space. A number of codes with regard to access and safety have drastically changed over the more than a century since the library was built. It is currently in violation of a number of the current codes, including lack of an elevator, lack of a sprinkler system, and lack of appropriate, sufficient egresses from the higher levels. The library being on seven levels presents a number of problems both for safety and efficient operation."