Sen. Seward presents Phoenicia Library with $20K to help rebuild

By Jay Braman Jr.
The $800,000 effort to rebuild the Phoenicia Library got a little closer to full funding last Thursday when New York State Senator James Seward of Oneonta visited to present the library with $20,000 in “Bullet Aid.”
The Bullet Aid, unobligated state money that’s used to help school districts and libraries, will go toward the expansion and renovation of the Main Street building that was destroyed by fire in March 2011.
Librarian Elizabeth Potter was pleased upon hearing the news Tuesday, saying that between insurance payments and donations, including what Seward is expected to bring, the library now has $655,000 with which to work.
“We’re relying solely on grants and private donations, not the taxpayers,” she said. 

Amazing support
“The generosity coming towards us has been amazing. Senator James Seward is one example.  He met with us last year to discuss the community’s loss of the library due to the fire, and to look at our plans. We were very shocked many months later when we heard that he had gone to bat for us with the state and managed to obtain $20,000 for us in Bullet Aid to help us with the rebuild.  Unexpected gifts like this keep coming in and this is how we are able to rebuild this library with these necessary improvements. Libraries are something everyone understands the need for in a community,” she continued
On Wednesday, work crews were busy preparing to pour concrete under the building, which has now been stripped down to its original post and beam construction, and along the back of the structure and western side where a 215-square-feet addition of space will be added.
Explaining the cost of the project, Potter said that building public space is very different than building a house.
“When you are dealing with a non-residential structure, especially a library with high load bearing requirements from all the books, the cost is higher than a home,” she said. “The (library) board early on made a commitment to make the library accessible to people with disabilities and to elders, and that meant the additional cost of an elevator, ramp, and handicap bathroom, which together totals over $100,000.
“The other commitment the board made was to be economically sustainable into the next century, and that meant cutting our huge fuel costs down.  So our new building is passive house design, highly insulated, and that costs 10 percent more to construct.  However, it cuts our heating and cooling costs by 80 percent a year.”
With another $145,000 still needed to complete the project, the Phoenicia Library Association continues fundraising efforts, with a goal of raising another $25,000 by the end of this year. The project is expected to be finished next August.