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Williamstown Library Officials Aim for Construction Project Within 10 Years
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
07:31AM / Sunday, March 17, 2024
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The Milne Public Library on Main Street in Williamstown across from Field Park.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Library officials plan to spend the next few years to develop a long-term solution for a building that has been a topic of discussion in town for more than a decade.
The chair of the Milne Library Board of Trustees told the town's Finance Committee last week that $300,000 allocated last year for repairs to the Main Street facility are meant to keep the building operational while a board and town decide how to get a building that will last for decades to come.
Micah Manary did not say whether that will mean a major renovation or a new building, but he indicated that the idea is on the table.
Manary talked to the Fin Comm about the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, which, he said, funds anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of construction costs.
The state program had a round of grants in 2016-17 and another round that closes to applications on May 31 of this year. Manary said he expects the next round to open in about eight years, which the trustees are targeting for an application.
"That's our timeline," Manary said. "Let's hold the building together and then, over the next two to three years, really figure out what we want to do with that building and what the town wants to do with that building. As you know, it's a town building, and the town could want to do a lot of things.
"And figure out how we can make that building into what we need it to be for the next 20 to 30 years. Or, if that's not possible — I know everyone wants to talk about new construction — what that would entail and what grants are available."
Manary said the library needs time to prepare the best possible grant application.
"They're competitive grants, it's not like you just get it," he said. "That's why one of our biggest goals for the new director is to be ready and prepared for the second those grants are open to apply with a strong application and have the town behind it.
"We're anticipating this many years from now, but that's why we're going to be prepping for it for the next two or three years."
At last May's annual town meeting, the town approved $300,000 for repairs to the existing structure, formerly the Pine Cobble School before its acquisition by the town as a home for its public library, which moved in 1996.
Manary said the repairs will be sufficient to keep the building operational for 10 years.
Trustee Alexander Carlisle, a member of the library's Building Committee, agreed and said that is why the trustees are not pursuing some of the recommendations from a building assessment it commissioned from Bennington, Vt.'s, Centerline Architect.
"A lot of the expenses that have been called for, such as replacing major windows and lots of doors and exterior, we are passing on that, because a 10-year lifespan for major replacements like that is not worth our while," Carlisle said. "So we are going to use repairs and maintenance to keep those things going as long as we can, which we think we can do without any trouble."
Carlisle said he thinks the state grant process could open up in as few as five years, which still would give the town time to think through its plans for the library and other needs, such as how to address its aging and inefficient town hall, properly known as the Municipal Building.
One long-term initiative of the Milne Trustees is resolved in the budget Manary presented to the Fin Comm at its Feb. 28 session.
The chair reported that the fiscal year 2025 spending plan reflects adjustment to library staff salaries that come out of a wage classification study for all town employees that was completed last year.
"The trustees and library staff were incredibly happy to get that study done," Manary said. "We'd been asking for it for years and years, certainly all five years I've served on the board. The results of that study were that the library staff were severely undercompensated compared to other staff in Williamstown and compared to other libraries in the area.
"[Trustee Bridget Spann] and I feel that's our biggest success as trustees, getting those salaries up to a reasonable level. Comparing them to some numbers from the town, I think the library staff is still on the bottom part of the compensation for town employees, but I think at this point it's totally reasonable. … It's where we're able to attract new employees and retain employees, which has been a major problem since I've been a trustee."
Manary said the impact of the salary adjustments was about $46,000, which is a little less than the $50,000 Town Manager Robert Menicocci included in the FY24 budget to address equity for library employees while the full compensation study still was in the works.
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