Estimate for new library approaches $50 million

A new county library still seems a long way off after a recent report priced a new facility at $47.5 million.

County supervisors received a library needs assessment report Tuesday and directed staff officials to continue the discussion at the San Benito County Intergovernmental Committee. The committee is comprised of representatives from San Benito County, the San Benito High School District, the City of Hollister and the City of San Juan Bautista.

The committee previously asked the county to contract with Library Systems and Services, a Maryland-based library consultant firm, for a needs assessment report of the San Benito County Free Library.

Library Systems and Services Vice President of Operations Dana Braccia presented an estimated cost of a new technology, education and library center, or TEL center, to county supervisors.

“Right now it’s around about $47 million,” Braccia said, adding how that number doesn’t include furniture, fixtures and equipment. Those additional costs could add millions to the price tag.

The report provided details on estimated construction costs. Total building construction costs for a 60,000 square-foot facility are estimated at $47.5 million with a price of $792 per square foot. That’s broken down further into other fees.

Basic construction could cost $33 million with a price of $550 per square foot. Contractor fees are estimated at $9.9 million at a cost of $165 per square foot. Architectural fees are estimated at $4.6 million at a cost of $77 per square foot.

According to the report, final construction costs could vary depending on the selected site, construction codes, labor cost and other factors.

“Note that current construction estimates may be higher depending on local resource availability,” the report stated. “Cost per (square foot) in the table above only includes basic construction, and does not include Furniture, Fixture & Equipment (FF&E), which can add between $100-125 per square foot in costs. Additional costs will include technology, cabling, signage, and interior design.”

Supervisor Anthony Botelho wasn’t enthused about the estimated cost and said he had hoped for something achievable in his lifetime. Braccia clarified that the report was based on a multi-story facility, but that the county could scale down the project.

Supervisor Mark Medina said he couldn’t see the facility happening at that price point.

“Sixty-thousand square foot at $47-48 million dollars, I can’t see that,” Medina said. “I love the idea. I think we should tone it down.”

Medina said the county needed to go to local businesses to partner together for the project.

“We need to really go to our local businesses, go to our local Community Foundation and see what we can do with them also,” he said. “We need to partner together with everyone. I just think presenting it as this Taj Mahal right now at $47-48 million is not the right way to market it at this point in time.”

County Management Analyst Louie Valdez offered a point of clarification for the supervisors.

“The intergovernmental committee asked us to take a look at what the greatest possible idea could be to put together a technology, education and learning center…and they instructed us to use our imagination and go for broke,” Valdez said. “That’s what you’ve got here, literally.”

Supervisor Robert Rivas called the project a vision and said he appreciated it.

“This is what I want in my community,” Rivas said. “This is what we need in San Benito County. We need a place of learning.”

The project is a great launching point, Rivas said.

“Certainly, is this going to happen while any of us are members of the board?” he asked. “Maybe not. But we can start the discussion, lay the foundation as far as creating this vision.”

Rivas and Valdez both echoed Medina’s comment about involving local businesses in the project.

“It can’t just be the city and county involved; it has to be the entire community,” Valdez said.

Board Chairman Jaime De La Cruz said it wouldn’t be right to shut down the idea now. He directed county staff to continue discussion of the project at the intergovernmental committee.

“It takes leaders to see the future and start somewhere, just as Supervisor Rivas has said,” De La Cruz said. “So for us to laugh at it, make fun of it and say there’s no way it could happen, many people have said that. Very few people have said ‘let’s take the lead.’”

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