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May 08, 2008

Supervisors seek lower construction costs for Crozet Library

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This summer, a team of citizens, elected officials and library staff will begin work on the design of a new library for Crozet. One of the charges for the steering committee: Keep constructions costs low.

The new library was called for in the 2004 Crozet Master Plan, and is expected to be an anchor for the downtown. The Board of Supervisors approved construction of a 20,000 square foot building in March 2007, and have appropriated just under $10 million in capital funds.  Construction is scheduled to begin next year with completion by the fall of 2011.

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Bill Letteri, the County’s Director of Facilities Development, approached the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on May 7, 2008 to ask them to form a steering committee to oversee the design work. In all, he suggested 12 members be appointed to the committee, including two members of the Board of Supervisors. Letteri said the committee would be charged with reviewing designs and ultimately making a recommendation to the Board. 

Crozet-library
This house was demolished in March to make way for the new Crozet Library (Photo: Jim Duncan)
In response to a question from Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), Letteri said the construction project is effectively budgeted at $325 per square foot.  Slutzky called that a problem, given the public outcry over the cost per square foot of the new Hollymead Fire Station, which was over $220 a square foot. Slutzky voted against the library in part because of cost concerns and the size. 

“I said that a library is an imperative element of what we’re trying to do to revitalize downtown Crozet, but that I thought that building a structure that was half the size would serve that purpose,” Slutzky said.
Letteri said his office feels the library cost is reasonable, especially given the LEED certification that will be sought by the County. Slutzky said LEED generally adds about 5% to the cost of a new building, and that Letteri’s numbers were questionable.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said the costs seemed in line, given the sharp escalation of constructions materials and labor. 

“I think we should work to lower it, but I think what we need to do here is look at what we’re planning to build, look at what the alternatives might be if we lowered the cost, and then decide if that’s what we want to fund,” Rooker said. He also asked Letteri to explain at some point how his office calculates cost estimates. 

Slutzky said he wants to make sure the steering committee  that is clearly directed to keeping the cost per square foot down.

“I understand it is a capital budget, but we took a penny off the capital contribution already this year, and I’m just saying it’s a useful cautionary element of this process to admonish the participants as part of their

charge to pay careful attention to the cost of the building while they’re discussing what they want in it,” Slutzky said.

Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna) also took issue with a 10% cost over-run contingency built into the construction budget, which is included in the $325 figure. Slutzky said the steering committee should be encouraged to find ways to cut costs. 

“I just want to draw their attention succinctly to the idea that they need to be mindful of what this all costs at all times,” Slutzky said. Rooker said the bid process would allow the County to seek the lowest possible cost for construction, but the design should be limited to what the County actually needs.

Letteri  said the Committee would spend the summer developing site models, reviewing potential facades, as well as refining and completing the library’s program. In the fall, the steering committee would present a full recommendation to the Board.  Supervisors Ann Mallek (White Hall) and Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) will serve on the Committee with Letteri serving as chair. 

Sean Tubbs

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