County’s director of library services says the contractor has 90 days to get a Certificate of Occupancy; architectural firm chosen for new Venice Public Library
Demolition was scheduled to get underway in the interior of Venice’s Hamilton Building on May 11, as the initial step in the process of transforming the structure into temporary library space on the island of Venice, Sarabeth Kalajian, director of libraries and historical resources, told the Sarasota County Commission this week.
After the board approved a $249,436.02 contract with Magnum Builders of Sarasota on April 27 to handle the project, Kalajian said during a May 10 update, County Administrator Tom Harmer signed the contract with the firm on May 5. Magnum has 90 days to complete the work necessary to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, Kalajian added, with another 30 days set aside in the contract for finishing up “punch list” items, during which time library staff will move in and make their final preparations.
In related news, Harmer told the board that Sweet Sparkman of Sarasota will serve as the architect for the new library the county will build for the residents of Venice. The firm has won awards for design projects it has completed for Sarasota County; among its most recent examples of public work are structures at the upgraded Siesta Public Beach.
Kalajian explained to the board that the county received nine proposals for architectural services for the new Venice library; staff narrowed them to a short list of four and held presentations and oral interviews on May 9.
Since the County Commission voted on Jan. 12 to close Venice Public Library because of concerns about persistent mold in the building, staff has been working on providing temporary space and gaining public participation in the process to construct a new facility.
Additionally this week, Kalajian reported that staff will allow about two more weeks for Gulf Gate Library patrons to turn in a survey regarding their views on how that facility is functioning. Commissioner Christine Robinson suggested that process in late March, as Gulf Gate Library is the most recently constructed county library. It opened in January 2015.
Further, Kalajian said staff has met with the Teen Advisory Board and members of the Friends of Gulf Gate Library “and received some really great [responses regarding] what they think worked exceptionally well … and what things could perhaps be improved.”
“Are you surprised by anything you’re finding with the Gulf Gate review?” Robinson asked
“Not particularly,” Kalajian replied. For a year after a new library opens, Kalajian noted, staff typically holds sessions with the contractor and the staff “for fine-tuning.”
Kalajian continued, “Gulf Gate is used to an extraordinary level, as you all are aware.” At times, she noted, the parking areas — both the one on-site and one across the street that the Friends organization donated to the county — have been “nearly overflowing.”
“We had lots of positive remarks” about the library in the surveys, Kalajian added, including compliments about the amount of public meeting space, which is heavily used. Further, she said, “People appreciate the programming [and the] customer service.”
Most of the suggestions people have offered so far, she noted, relate to the waiting time for computer access and just “some fine-tuning with things in the building.”
Kalajian pointed out that her staff emailed the survey to the “very large distribution list” that the Friends of Gulf Gate Library maintains, to try to reach as many people as possible.
Then Robinson asked whether Kalajian has considered organizing a tour of the Gulf Gate Library for Venice residents.
“That would be fine,” Kalajian responded. “I think people would really enjoy that.”
“Just to get an idea of what we have done,” Robinson said. While she and her family have visited almost every library in the county, Robinson added, other people might not have had the opportunity to see other facilities.
Kalajian also reported that county staff registered 126 participants at the two planning meetings it already has conducted in preparation for a new Venice Public Library.
Two more sessions were scheduled on May 12 in the cafeteria of Venice High School. Those were targeted to students of all ages — even those who are homeschooled, Kalajian said — their parents and teachers.
“We’re really pleased to have had such great collaboration with the [Sarasota County School] District,” she told the board, noting that Venice High students would be assisting with the sessions.
Kalajian reminded the board that staff is continuing to post updates about the planning process on a special webpage on the county’s website.