City likely won’t fund public art projects for new building
Morgan Hill – Escalating construction costs for the city’s new library may ruin any chance that further redevelopment funds will be used to beautify the facility or install public art projects. But it’s likely that the city will increase the library’s construction budget rather than try to cut corners to lower costs.

“I’m a huge fan of public art, but in this case I think it has to start in the private sector and volunteer community and not on the city side of the ledger,” Councilman Greg Sellers said, “particularly now given the tight state of affairs.”

The $17 million library has been funded entirely by the city redevelopment agency, which is also responsible for the Community and Cultural Center, the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse and the city’s new and upcoming recreation facilities.

In recent weeks, the library’s $12.7 million construction budget has ballooned by $400,000 due to increased material and energy costs, according to senior project manager Jim Dumas.

“We feel the library project is going to be caught up in the middle of all of this,” Dumas said, “The council has to tell us what they want us to do.”

The council will consider the library budget during its Nov. 30 meeting. Sellers indicated the council will support increasing the budget rather than fall back on “value engineering” to save money. Friday, he and Councilman Larry Carr – the city’s economic redevelopment committee – decided to hold off on allocating unused RDA funds until the library has been addressed. Councilman Mark Grzan has also expressed support for funneling more RDA money to the project.

“Although value engineering has some value, you could be cutting essential services,” Sellers said. “We need to uphold the commitment we made to build the library in a way that ensures it serves the community from day one.”

Value engineering can take many forms, from replacing materials, eliminating structures or changing finishes and landscaping. The city recently approved some value engineering changes to the indoor recreation center.

City Manager Ed Tewes said his staff is confident that the original budget can be met, but will leave the policy decision to the council without making a specific recommendation.

Before the budget overrun, city staff had proposed taking at least some of the $980,000 intended for a soccer complex north of Sobrato High School that will not be built. The soccer complex project was abandoned last summer when it hit an impasse with the city of San Jose. Now some of the money will be reprogrammed for what Tewes called betterments at the library.

“That was before we reached this construction estimate,” he said. “I think it is pretty clear [the council] doesn’t want to underfund it. Whether to add betterments is another story.”

Carol O’Hare, president of Friends of the Morgan Hill Library said she hopes the extra construction costs won’t torpedo the library’s chances for still more RDA money. She said her group will work to raise funds to buy better furnishings for the building.

“There seems to be a substantial amount of RDA funds available at this time,” O’Hare said of the $4 million the city has in unallocated RDA money. “The new library needs to have as much money as possible so we can build the best facility we can.”

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