The Calloway County Public Library Board is no longer going to pursue the former Regions Bank building in downtown Murray as an alternative for library expansion.
Board Secretary Mark Kennedy introduced the motion Tuesday night after 5253 Design Group Head Architect Chris Cottongim gave a report of a feasibility study.
Cottongim listed several reasons for not pursuing the building. He said the building has less usable square footage than previous expansion proposals and would require increased utility cost and additional staffing.
He said only certain portions of the building meet the 150-lbs-per-square-foot requirement for libraries- this is for floors to withstand the weight of book stacks. “You could have a library that only has certain parts of the building that meets this square footage requirement. But down the line, after you all are gone, after Mignon (Library Director Mignon Reed) is gone-- someone decides that they want to rearrange the stacks and all of a sudden the floor begins creaking,” Cottongim said.
Cottongim said a review of the existing documents revealed that the former bank building would need an additional environmental study. He said the previous study by AAA stated that “they have removed all known asbestos piping and flooring,” and did not constitute a ‘Phase One Environmental Study’ needed to give the building a clean bill of health.
Cottongim said his group was not allowed inside the building by owners Mark and Valerie Frederick. Mark Frederick said he believes 5253’s assessment of the building constitutes a conflict of interest. Board members took no official action on his claims.
Kennedy said he decided to discontinue pursuing the building after Cottongim told the board that they would need to consider having staff members on all three floors. He said he appreciated the effort Mark Frederick put in to providing the building as an option. Referring to the building and meeting attendees, Kennedy said, “It was not going to catch on out here. This is a group that is well coordinated and they come and they come in force. At one point, we were thinking, ‘just give them what they want’, you know, but I’m not going to say ‘give them what they want,’ I’m going to say ‘give them what they need and what the taxpayers can afford,’ period. We haven’t even gotten to the bookmobile issue yet.”
Kennedy has said at previous board meetings that he believes the library needs a stronger bookmobile program.
Kennedy said he still believes renovating the former bank building is a cheaper alternative for expansion despite Cottongim’s estimation that it would cost just as much as previous plans. Cottongim’s estimation for the bank totaled $7.2 million. The Essential Level Plus Plan the library has previously considered, which involves expanding and renovating the current library location, would cost an estimated $6.4 million.
Kennedy first proposed renovating the former Regions Bank building in 2018 after he and other board members selected by former Judge/Executive Larry Elkins voted earlier in the year to rescind previously approved plans. A working group formed by Judge/Executive Kenny Imes recommended last month to discontinue the pursuit of the bank building and continue with the 5253 Design Group Essential Plus plan as soon as possible. This plan involved renovating and expanding the current location.
Community members have overwhelmingly expressed a desire for an expansion and renovation.
Kennedy criticized the library working group for not consulting with any board members before making their recommendations to the board. He also said he believed they rushed the process.
Working Group Chair Bobby Martin said they considered consulting the board before making their recommendations but ultimately decided against it. “It was brought up at the first meeting to interview current board members or previous board members- cause they were the ones who voted to move forward with this Essential Plus Plan. We decided that we would not do that. We wanted to gather the information for ourselves rather than get a bias of one or the other on a particular position or issue…I did not explain that to the board members because I did not think it was pertinent to our recommendations,” Martin said.
Martin said he did not believe the Working Group would be re-formed.
In other matters, the board voted to reimburse $5,000 to bank building owners Mark and Valerie Frederick for environmental and structural assessments of the building. Mark Frederick presented the board with receipts and an itemized list of how much each study cost. The Frederick’s hired their own engineering firm last fall to conduct a structural assessment of the building. The board originally tasked engineering group Bacon, Farmer and Workman to conduct the studies, but the firm decided not to move forward with their assessment since Matrix Engineering was already conducting a study for the Fredericks.
Board President Audrey Neal said the Fredericks could have communicated better with the board during the process of these studies. Mark Frederick said he thought the library’s budget was $5,000. Their original budget was $2,500 for both studies. He said he has never worked with a public board before and didn’t know how to communicate with them. “We were just doing the best we could to gather the information that we thought you all needed to make the decision that you all needed to make,” Frederick said.
According to documents, the Frederick’s requested the board pay a total of $6,255. $4,575 of that was requested to be paid to 1st Kentucky Realty- the Frederick’s real estate company- for “library inspections,” and $1,680 to Matrix Engineering for the unpaid balance due for the structural analysis. Kennedy made a motion to pay $5,000 to Mark Frederick for the studies. He said the library did receive the results of what they had originally asked for. Neal and board member Riley Ramsey voted against the motion. It passed with a ‘yes’ vote from Kennedy, Board Treasurer Winfield Rose and board member Joseph Walker.
When asked if the board would reverse their decision to reimburse the Fredericks since the board ultimately voted against pursuing the building, Neal said no.
This story has been updated.