Demolition of old Venice Public Library to get underway by mid-March, as a result of County Commission vote

Construction budget for the new facility increased to allow for ‘site soil sample investigation and foundation design’

A map shows the location of the old library on the Venice Cultural Campus. Image courtesy Sarasota County

With a unanimous vote on Feb. 15, the Sarasota County Commission approved a $354,360 increase in the budget for the new Venice Public Library, including $216,736 to have the old facility on the Cultural Campus in Venice torn down.

The actual demolition is scheduled to begin in mid-March and be completed by April 27, according to a timeline provided to the board in advance of the meeting. “Afterward, the site will be fenced for protection with an exterior decorative windscreen that will be maintained until construction of the new [library] begins,” a Feb. 15 staff memo says.

A resolution the board adopted through its motion explains that the demolition of the existing facility — which was closed at the end of January 2016 — is necessary “to complete site soil investigation and foundation design of the new library structure,” which led to the increased project cost.

The County Commission ordered the facility closed out of worries that persistent mold would harm the health of patrons, volunteers and county employees. Concerns were raised in subsequent discussions about whether material in the soil on the site had led to staff’s inability to remediate the mold problem sufficiently to keep the library open.

On Feb. 9, 2016, Jeff Lowdermilk, now director of the county’s General Services Department, told the board that the parcel “appears to be viable” for future construction. However, he continued, he wanted to make sure all soil identified as containing “organics and muck” was removed and that clean fill was added. Deeper soil borings were warranted, he said, to make certain no unforeseen problems would hinder the erection of a new library on the property. Additionally, Lowdermilk told the board, “I think we probably need to do some more due diligence with the [stormwater] system in the area.”

A timeline shows details of planning for the demolition. Image courtesy Sarasota County

After the Feb. 15 vote, Commissioner Charles Hines said, “I’m very pleased [with] the pace this is staying on and moving forward.” He seconded Commissioner Nancy Detert’s motion for the cost increase and demolition. Both Hines and Detert are Venice residents.

Hines also asked County Administrator Tom Harmer to make certain leaders of the City of Venice are aware of the vote, “so they know the timing [of the demolition].”

The design of the new library is scheduled for completion this fall, the Feb. 15 staff memo points out. At that time, a new Guaranteed Maximum Price for construction will be presented to the County Commission for its approval, the memo continues. If the board gives staff the go-ahead, the memo says, construction is expected to be completed in the fall of 2018, “with move-in and opening following soon thereafter.”

County staff held eight meetings with community residents between March 21, 2016 and Dec. 8, 2016 to gain their views on the design of the new library, the staff memo notes. About 450 people attended the sessions to offer comments, the memo adds.

A graphic presented to the board in November 2016 shows the location of the new library will be in the existing footprint. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Furthermore, the memo says, a library planning consultant working in association with Sweet Sparkman Architects of Sarasota — the firm designing the new building — conducted 13 focus groups with 142 participants from Aug. 16, 2016 through Aug. 19, 2016.

In September 2016, the County Commission awarded a contract for pre-construction services for the new facility to the team of Ajax Building Corp. and P.J. Hayes Inc., which does business as Tandem Construction.

The staff memo points out that the County Commission last year identified the replacement of the Venice Public Library as one of its top priorities.

The county has been leasing the City of Venice’s Hamilton Building as temporary quarters for the public library until the new facility is ready to open.