UPDATE: July 16th, 2021
Dear Friends of the Jeudevine,
We have good and bad news to relate. As you have heard, the expansion project was upended by the pandemic and the inflated construction costs that ensued. When we went out to bid this past winter, the bids were 50% over the original budget. The good news is that we were recommended for an earmark appropriation by Senator Leahy’s office, for the $600,000 required to finish the project. Unfortunately, the Senate budget vote won’t happen until the fall, and that means we have another delay. One of our funders, the USDA Rural Development office, will not sign off until all the funds are in place. Thus, the bad news is that we are sadly forced to put our construction plans on ice for several more months, most likely until early 2022.
However, given that we went out to bid at the peak of skyrocketing construction costs, which have since come down, there’s a decent chance that the costs will be more reasonable if we rebid. If this proves true, we’ll be able to add back more of the finishing details that had to come out due to the high bids. We’re trying to see the bright side, though I confess we’re all a bit heartbroken right now.
It’s hard to wait for this beautiful building that we need so badly, but it will be that much more precious when we finally get to use it.
We remain strong and committed.
A Pandemic-Related Challenge for the Jeudevine
The Jeudevine Expansion Project is facing a new challenge after opening bids for the construction work. While it was well known that construction costs have gone up in the pandemic-related building boom, the full amount of the increase couldn’t have been predicted. The library had worked hard to raise $1.54 million toward construction costs (separate from fees for engineering, design, and permits), but the construction bids ranged from $2.42 million to $2.59 million. The fact that all three bids were so close to one another indicates they are responsible bids reflecting the pandemic-induced inflation of costs—but they are all at least $800,000 over the original budget, which is a full 50% increase. The low bidder was Breadloaf Construction LLC out of Middlebury.
After taking time to regroup and have numerous discussions aimed toward bridging this gap, there is now a new plan. The architects and the estimators at Breadloaf are focused on reducing the budget by delaying items that can be added back once more money is available, so as not to compromise the quality of the overall building.
Meanwhile the trustees, the town, and the funding partners are all at work to raise more funds. The Trustees will solicit donations from individual donors and our funding partners are seeking other sources. The immediate goal is to sign a contract that allows the general contractor to begin construction. If necessary, parts of the lower level of the new library will remain unfinished, but the new reading rooms on the upper level will be usable, allowing expanded space for kids, teens, and quiet reading. .
While it is early days for release of stimulus money via the American Rescue Plan Act, there are several possible avenues by which the library project might be eligible for infrastructure funding due to the pandemic-related nature of the shortage. The trustees and the select board are in close contact over how best to access these funds once guidance becomes available for how they can be used. The U.S. Dept. of the Treasury has also announced a fund for capital projects, for which guidance will be coming at a later date. Further, the library has applied for earmark funding via the offices of Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders, as this funding has just recently been announced and meets the criteria for community-based projects. The revitalization efforts in Hardwick are providing a model and inspiration for numerous other communities, and this is well recognized throughout the state. The Jeudevine Expansion is considered a key piece of this revitalization work, together with the Yellow Barn Project and the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.
For community members, there will be opportunities to volunteer once the project enters a finishing phase. Also, there is a need for granite block for landscaping (such as from old foundations) that will be gratefully accepted as a donation.
For questions about the project or to offer assistance, call the library at 472-5948.
Phone: (802) 472-5948
Address: Jeudevine Memorial Library
93 North Main St.
P.O. Box 536
Hardwick, VT 05843