The Moniteau County Library Board of Trustees chose an architect for its proposed new library based on merit, but remained uncertain about how much the firm it chose might charge.
From three options, trustees chose Sapp Design Architects, of Springfield and Kansas City, to spearhead its new library plans in March.
On April 19, they got a taste of how expensive Sapp might be.
Sometime since March, Sapp had sent to library Director Connie Beauchamp a contract to begin the design process. The contract said Sapp would charge $300,000 to design the building — $30,000 of which would be for the preliminary design phase (which includes renderings, schematics, floor plan and a construction budget). The balance of $270,000 would include the building phase, where architects would produce construction documents, bid the project to contractors and work with contractors for quality assurance.
The library’s budget for a new building is $2.4 million, part of which would be a loan, according to library treasurer Paul Bloch. At an average construction cost of $300 per square foot, he said the new facility will need to be 8,000 square feet or less.
He points out that $300,000 is 12.5 percent of the entire budget.
“I’m thinking they’re thinking 10 percent of a $3,000,000 project, and we can’t fund a $3,000,000 project, I don’t think,” Bloch said.
Board President Mike Staton said the current library only has 6,000 square feet on its first floor — where the collections are housed. A new facility would add 2,000 additional square feet, although that would need to include other parts of the library, such as a circulation desk, meeting rooms, restrooms and storage.
“Well, if that’s what we have to do, that’s what we can afford, then that’s what we’ll have to do,” Beauchamp said.
Bloch said he could not agree on signing the contract with the library’s current figures.
“To just say $300,000 and that’s what it’s going to be, I can’t agree with that,” he said.
Bloch added the figure would remain the same regardless if the facility is smaller than initially planned, or if the facility costs more or less than the initial budget.
“… Right now I … wouldn’t want you to sign that contract, and I hate to say that, I think they’re the best architect that we talked to, and I really want to use them.”
Discussion continued on the library’s current contributions to the loan principal, including estimates on the value of the library’s current facility at 501 S. Oak St., and the neighboring building owned by the library and rented to a business. As explained in previous meetings, the library is seeking a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development loan that would require contributions, such as donations and fundraiser proceeds, to be applied to the down payment to lower the loan principal. Funds put toward the loan after its approval would only reduce the period of the loan, not the principle itself.
The board voted to move the May monthly meeting up to continue discussion on the contract and pricing.
The library is also expanding its Spanish collection, Beauchamp said in her report.
She said the collection will feature many popular authors, along with self-help and history titles.
Beauchamp said Moniteau County’s Spanish-speaking population pays a lot of personal property taxes, which benefit the library. However, the majority of the library’s collection is in English.
“And there’s a big need for it, and we found this out through our new employee (Carmen Belen, bilingual circulation clerk). I feel really good about more of them wanting to use the library,” Beauchamp said.
Beauchamp said it has been difficult to find Spanish versions of some books, since some are not published in the United States.
“I just think it is inclusive and I like the idea of that,” she said.
Beauchamp added that the English as Second Language (ESL) courses were once popular at the library, but the program was discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since, she said, she has been unable to find a suitable instructor for it. The library offered Rosetta Stone, a software that allows users to learn a new language, but it was rarely used before the subscription was canceled.
State aid concerns
Beauchamp started her report to the trustees by discussing the Missouri Senate’s progress on restoring state aid funding to libraries. The Missouri House of Representatives voted March 28 to cut state aid and equalization payments to libraries after the Missouri Library Association joined the American Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit against the state, alleging a 2022 law that removed materials featuring “sexually-explicit” imagery from school libraries was unconstitutional.
Although the Senate intends to restore the funds, it’s far from certain. Even if the Senate reinstates the funds, the amended appropriation bill would go back to the House for a vote before heading to the desk of Gov. Mike Parson.
Beauchamp said she reached out to Rep. Willard Haley, who represents Moniteau County in the House; Rep. Cody Smith, the budget chair who removed the state aid and equalization funds from an appropriation bill; and Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, who represents Moniteau County in the Senate, regarding the legislation. Only Bernskoetter responded to her emails.
On a related note, Beauchamp said the Missouri State Library is requiring all libraries to submit policies regarding inappropriate materials with their state aid applications. The requirement is to ensure libraries are compliant with an administrative rule Secretary of State John Ashcroft issued in October 2022. The rule required libraries to: create a policy determining how age-appropriate materials are selected, create a policy allowing “any minor’s parent or guardian to determine what materials and access will be available to a minor” and create a policy allowing library patrons to challenge what materials are deemed as age-appropriate.
Beauchamp said the Moniteau County Library has already had those policies in place. She added that while the Missouri State Library, which is operated under the Secretary of State Office, has been prohibited from issuing guidance regarding the rule, the Missouri Public Library Directors organization is providing language to assist libraries in complying with it.
In other business, the trustees:
Approved the financial report, including an amendment to the budget for a new line item to detail new building donations.
Received from Beauchamp the feasibility report required for the USDA loan application on the new building is nearly complete. An air conditioning unit also had to be recharged, and GFI Digital renewed the contract for a photocopier. She also previewed the upcoming summer reading program, which runs May 22-July 28. During the program, the library will visit Jamestown and High Point for summer school, and host students from California schools.
The Moniteau County Library Board of Trustees will meet next at 10 a.m. May 10, where it will continue discussion on the architect’s contract.
Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — FILE — The “Library” sign is seen Sept. 26, 2022, at the Moniteau County Library at Wood Place in California.