Construction of Countryside Library Branch could begin next week

— If the city council approves a builder’s proposed $7.1 million bid tonight, construction could begin on a new Countryside Library Branch next week.

The project calls for a new 23,524-square-foot single story building to be constructed adjacent to the Countryside Recreation Center, 2640 Sabal Springs Drive, north of the current 16,000-square-foot branch at 5741 State Road 580. Construction is expected to take about a year.

The city council voted in May 2013 to construct a new building, rather than renovating the existing library, which is considered small and in need of a major renovation and state-of-the-art technology and equipment.

The new repository, which is scheduled to open in next August, will be funded with the third round of Penny for Pinellas one-cent sales tax monies. Design plans include a “content creation space” equipped with a video camera, computer software to produce videos and even a green screen video wall to design automated backdrops.

Depending on the season, from 7,000 to 10,000 patrons visit the Countryside branch each month and by relocating the new building near the recreation center, its patrons will have easier access to the library.

Library Director Barbara Pickell told the city council during its work session Monday the total project cost for the new library is estimated at $7,102,668, an increase of $852,668 over the original $6,250,000 budget.

The base bid estimate for the construction of the new building, provided by the Ajax Building Corporation of Oldsmar, which was selected as the construction manager at risk last December, is $5,462,668. In addition to the construction costs, the bid includes fees associated with a property appraisal, preparing the site for development, and architect and project management costs.

Another $787,000 will cover standard construction costs like site work for public utilities, the purchase and installation of technology, data, security and fire alarm systems, a new transformer, builder’s risk insurance, machinery and operating equipment, furniture and an artist fee associated with adding an art element to the building’s interior floor.

New items not included in the original scope that increased the project cost by $852,668 include the design and construct of HVAC system that will benefit both the library and neighboring recreation center, a sanitary lift station, new LED light fixtures, additional excavation and site preparation for the lift station, and a design fee for recreation center interior upgrades.

While city staff opted to not incur the added expense associated with meeting qualification for LEED certification, savings will be achieved by installing the new energy-efficient air and lighting systems.

For added safety measures along Sabal Springs Drive, the road that will lead to the new library, the project calls for making improvements to sidewalks and visual barriers.

While most of the council including Mayor George Cretekos favored placing the item on the consent agenda, council member Bill Jonson did not.

Because a number of homeowners in the Countryside neighborhood and specifically along Sabal Springs Drive have spoken out against the construction, Jonson asked that the item remain as part of the regular agenda, where public comment is permitted.

The city council will vote tonight during its regular city council meeting whether to award the $7.1 million contract to the Ajax Building Corporation to construct the new library. The meeting begins at 6 in city hall, 112 S. Osceola Ave. Citizens may address agenda items, or they may speak at the beginning of the meeting on issues not on the agenda.

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