Oak Bluffs Is Set to Accept Bid for Vineyard's Largest Library

By CHRIS BURRELL

The backyard of Oak Bluffs town hall doesn't look like much now, but sometime this spring on a patch of dirt and grass that was once a school playground, the Island's largest public library will begin to rise up.

Bids for the new library were opened last week, and six of the seven came within the $3.5 million budget.

Groundbreaking could begin this spring off Pacific avenue. The new library - enclosing nearly 15,000 square feet and two stories tall - will dwarf the other libraries on the Island.

Pending a background check, selectmen are expected next week to award the project to Barr Construction in Putnam, Conn., which submitted a bid of just under $3.38 million.

"We're very optimistic about moving on. If we break ground this coming spring, we'll have a library the following spring," said Robert Ford, a library trustee and member of the building committee.

The current library is housed in a former grocery store on Pennacook avenue which was transformed into a library in 1930. The building, enclosing 2,407 square feet, has no room for expansion of the collection and only limited handicapped access.

Building new quarters comes at a high cost - $3.8 million. Offsetting that price tag is a $1.56 million state grant.

Oak Bluffs taxpayers voted decisively at the annual town meeting two years ago to shoulder the remainder of the cost, but a library fund-raising committee is hoping to generate $800,000 in private donations to reduce the tax burden.

The cost is already being factored into Oak Bluffs tax bills. This year, the town paid $90,000 toward the project. Next year, taxpayers will likely pay back nearly four times that amount, $356,500, according to the latest estimates from town finance director Paul Manzie.

Late last summer, library building committee members worked hard to trim back the plans after a first round of bids came in over the $4 million mark.

"The change in the roofing was significant," said Mr. Ford. "We tweaked a few other things, but nothing that interfered with the form or function."

Size is the most notable characteristic of the new library. By comparison, Chilmark's new library is roughly 9,000 square feet, while Vineyard Haven's expanded library is 7,200 square feet. The Edgartown library encloses about 9,600 square feet.

The library's two floors would house a separate area for audio-visual materials, a meeting room with a capacity for 100 people, a historical room that can hold meetings of 16 people and a separate children's library.

Besides space, the new library in Oak Bluffs will also have 20 computer stations, nearly half of them geared for Internet use.

Meanwhile, as Oak Bluffs moves ahead with library construction, town hall leaders are also taking steps to redesign the main municipal building and create a public campus on the site.

The town campus design committee has already 18 proposals from designers and architects interested in creating a vision for the town property on both sides of School street.