Ilsley Library bond gets big thumbs up

THIS IS THE vision of the rear of the Ilsley Library as presented by Wiemann-Lamphere Architects and the ReArch Company.

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury voters on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to make a $17 million investment in the Ilsley Public Library during its 100th birthday year.

Approximately one-fifth of the shire town’s 5,870 registered voters turned out at the polls to support a 20-year bond proposal, by a 956-200 margin.

Ilsley Library Director Dana Hart was all smiles on Wednesday morning.

“I’m feeling joy and excitement with all that’s to come, and gratitude to the many people who helped us get here,” she said.

Joe McVeigh, a member of the Ilsley 100 Project Team and a library trustee, also voiced his thanks.

“It’s a really great feeling to have such a tremendous level of support from the community,” he said. “With nearly 1,000 people voting in favor and 200 opposed, the bond passed by almost a 5-1 margin — which is pretty resounding. At a time when school budgets around us are getting voted down, it’s a tremendous testament to the people of Middlebury that they have proved they value civic institutions that are going to provide valuable resources to the people of the town.”

Tuesday’s result triggers a tentative project schedule calling for the town to solicit bids this coming January from contractors willing to begin construction next spring. Plans call for the Ilsley’s 1977 and 1988 additions to be removed, with the original 1924 building to be retained, restored, and equipped with a new, 8,000-square-foot, two-story addition on its northeast side.

The National Bank of Middlebury has agreed to temporarily host basic library services — rent-free, beginning next February — within the first floor of its historic Duclos building, at the intersection of Main Street and Printer’s Alley.

The bank’s magnanimous offer of an interim downtown spot for the library was just one of the metaphorical stars that seemed to align prior to Tuesday’s bond vote. Another biggie was the announcement that Middlebury taxpayers would be responsible for just 25% (around $4.4 million) of the total $16,995,000 million project cost. That’s because the balance is to be covered through $6 million through private donations, $4 million from the town of Middlebury’s local option tax surplus fund, $2 million through state and federal grants, and $552,064 in tax credits and rebates.

Officials said the local taxpayers’ bonded share ($4,387,936) of the project is expected to add around $120 a year for a resident with a home assessed at $300,000.

With the bond now greenlighted, the team of Wiemann-Lamphere Architects and ReArch Company will spend this summer and fall refining construction documents. Ilsley officials will begin planning in earnest for the library’s interim move to the Duclos building and landing a temporary storage spot for the bulk of the library’s collection.

As the Independent went to press, officials were checking out an offer by Satori Vermont to temporarily house the collection in warehouse space at 1741 Route 7 South. Satori is a cannabis company operating in the former Standard Register complex.

Hart said the Satori offer is one of several potential options Ilsley officials are exploring.

The smaller portion of the Ilsley collection will go to the Duclos building, along with basic library services. The roughly 4,000-square-foot space will also accommodate small spaces for youths, adults and teens to use library resources; and a few public access computers, according to Hart.

Ilsley boosters are continuing efforts to raise the $6 million in donations that are key to the overall funding package. As of early May, officials had confirmed $3.3 million in gifts and pledges — all arriving since January. A more public phase of the campaign will launch later this year, according to McVeigh.

He and Ilsley Trustees board Chair Meg Baker have already crafted a “thank you” message that appears in this edition of the Independent. Among those receiving a shout-out: members of the Middlebury selectboard, Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay, and Judith Harris, the project’s clerk of the works.

“This project will have a transformative effect on the future of Middlebury for our downtown and for generations to come and you will be able to say that you were part of it,” McVeigh and Baker said of supporters.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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