The Calloway County Public Library Board has approved moving forward with contracting two studies to determine whether the former Regions Bank building in downtown Murray is a viable alternative for library expansion.
Three board members voted in favor of the proposal - and two against - in another tense meeting on Tuesday packed with community members. Those in favor were Mark Kennedy, Winfield Rose and Joseph Walker. Those opposed were Audrey Neal and Riley Ramsey.
Kennedy said he wants AAA Remediation to conduct environmental studies to determine the presence of any asbestos and mold. He also wants Bacon, Farmer and Workman Engineering and Testing to provide a structural engineering study. He said the environmental study is $650 and the structural study is $1,500 “at most.” He said he hopes to have the results of the studies by the December board meeting.
Library Director Mignon Reed said there needs to be a more in-depth study from architectural engineers. She asked the board to hold off on any decisions until January. She provided the board with cost estimates for in-depth studies from RBS Design Group of around $12,000 and JKS Architecture of around $25,000.
Kennedy argued the studies are a relatively small, initial investment. Should preliminary findings determine the building could be used as a library, he said, then the next step would possibly be a more in-depth study. “Maybe it would be a good idea to do the $2,000 study before we invest in the high-rollers over here,” Kennedy said, with regard to the in-depth study cost-estimates.
RBS Design Group conducted an in-depth study of the building in 2013 for the City of Murray as a possible City Hall. The estimated cost in that report for various repairs and upgrades was more than $4 million. That study has circulated around the community and some argue that amount could be even higher now. The group has told WKMS News that the study is irrelevant for a library because it did not factor floor bearing necessary for the weight of thousands of books.
Kennedy said the idea is to consider whether the previously-approved expansion and renovation project could go into a different building that could cost less money. He said he wants to study all possibilities “for the good of the library and the good of the taxpayers of Calloway County.”
The previous board had approved applying for grants to move forward with a $6.4 million library expansion and renovation as planned by the 5253 Design Group. The current board rescinded this move. There is currently more than $3 million in the building fund.
Rose expressed concern over the need for certain details regarding the previously-approved expansion, such as parking, adjacent property and how a temporary location would be established while construction was underway. Board President Audrey Neal said some of his concerns are addressed in the 5253 Design Group plan and others had not yet been discussed by the board because of the resignations.
Defending board members’ push towards considering the bank building, Rose said, “We’re not trying to stifle the expansion of the library. We have never tried to do that. That has never been on our agenda. I have said multiple times that what we are trying to do is to find the best way to do that and at the same time be sensitive to the tax burdens of Calloway County taxpayers. I think it’s perfectly appropriate that we keep that in mind. It’s not sinful to be considerate of the taxpayers who pay the bills. This is a democracy.”
Walker said, “We’ve had nothing but crap from the people that have attended these meetings that are saying that we’re not doing anything and, by God, we need to be doing this. And this is one of the steps that you take before you even get to the decision-making process.”
Responding to Walker, Reed said the board should be concerned with what is best for the library, “And if it is to sit down and discuss what we need to do next and come together then that’s what we need to do. We don’t need to make a decision because we’re mad about what somebody said and taking crap.”
During the public comment period, some asked the board to slow down and have more research and community discussion on the matter.
Also, during the public comment period, the current owners of the bank building, Mark and Val Fredrick of 1st KY Realty showed engineering plans from 1974.
According to the Fredricks, the bank building is priced at $27 per square foot (it’s around 33,000 square feet in total). In a document provided to WKMS News, they wrote, “There are no known structural issues with the building.” They wrote that the fire sprinkler system, elevator electronic controls and boiler would need to be updated or replaced and that the building would also need some ADA upgrades. They noted what they said is a detail in the 2013 RBS Design Group report involving contingency fees that amount to more than $600,000. They suggested if that money was instead spent directly on the building rather than an architect, it would cover upgrades involving ADA, fire sprinklers, elevator controls, etc. They also wrote that there are nearly 300 parking spaces in the court square, municipal parking lot and a private lot (included in the sale).
After the meeting, the Fredricks said they got “a good deal” on the building at $250,000, which currently serves as their office. They are selling the space for $900,000. They were not yet in the building at the time of the 2013 RBS Design Group study. They said they pay around $900 a month in utilities. They also shared with WKMS News some of the building’s details, including the current floor plan:
In other business, the board also approved moving meetings to the second Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. (Neal and Ramsey dissented). They also approved keeping the roles of the board members the same (Kennedy dissented).
NOTE: The paragraph explaining a document provided to WKMS News from the Fredricks has been clarified and corrected to summarize their suggestion involving the cost of what would have been contingency fees to the architect being applied directly to potential building upgrades. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated "in the previously-approved expansion and renovation project" but they were referring to the 2013 report involving the probable cost of moving the City Hall to the bank building.