Celebration for building expansion held at library

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NEW HARTFORD — An event to commemorate the start of a long in the works building expansion project at the Licia and Mason Beekley Community Library was held on Sunday, Sept. 22.
The project will add an expansion to the current library building, which was originally built in 1996.
According to members of the library’s board, the expansion will add 5,000 square feet to the building.
“The way I describe the addition is that we’re changing into something more akin to a community center, not just a library,” Library President John Burdick said. “The expansion has taken numerous years of preparation. We have been working on the fundraising for the project and design of the building.”
“Libraries have always been traditional depositories for books, but we are expanding the library to be more of a community center to add more programs to the building,” Paul Cryan chairman of the board’s building committee said. “I would say that only an eighth of the addition will be used for more books.”
Cryan said that the addition would include a children’s activity room, a new conference room for meetings, a hall for town gatherings and a kitchen.
“We’re still debating if we should make it into a low-level kitchen or a professional community kitchen because the cost is an issue,” Cryan said.
Cryan said that the new expansion will also include space for the New Hartford Historical Society.
“Right now we are occupying space on 537 Main Street in a house and half of our artifacts are in a self-storage facility, while the other half is in our office,” Historical Society President Pat Casey said. “Once the expansion is completed it will allow us to have space and we will be able to have historical artifacts displayed throughout the library.”
According to meeting minutes on July 10 from the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Cryan told the commission that most of the funding for the project came from donations.
He said that the project is being funded through a combination of board funds, $150,000 of proceeds from the sale of the old library building, a contribution of $120,000 from the Historical Society, a donation of $50,000 from Northwest Community Bank, private donations of $61,500 and a state grant of $621,000.
In all, the total amount of the project will cost an estimated $1,300,000.
While the Sept. 22 event promised a “groundbreaking” and included representatives from community groups involved in the project donning construction hats for photo ops, ground on the location of the expansion was not broken at all during the event.
This may have been because, during a recent inspection of the property, it was discovered that a gas tank was buried underground.
“There used to be a gas station out here and now we have to take out this 6,000-gallon tank,” Cryan said. “It’s going to slow down the process but hopefully it won’t take too long.”
Cryan said that, after the tank is removed and the property is remediated, construction on the expansion would take 10 months and would possibly start next spring.
The fact that work on the expansion project would be delayed did not dampen the spirits of attendees at the “groundbreaking” event, including First Selectman Dan Jerram.
“If you think about it, the library in its present form has served a generation of families,” Jerram said. “When this current library building opened in 1996, it spurred a lot of change downtown. The Town Hall was renovated shortly thereafter and those improvements set the stage for a period of growth. To me, if anybody thinks that a library is just about books is missing the real goal of a library. A library is a meeting place and cultural center for all different types of activities.”
Both Cryan and Burdick said that the library will remain open during the construction of the expansion.
For more information about the Licia and Mason Beekley Community Library go to www.beekleylibrary.org.

New Hartford First Selectman Dan Jerram talking to attendees at the “groundbreaking” ceremony on the location of where the library expansion will be built.
Attendees at the library event.
Attendees at the library event.
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