Return to story

K.G. supervisors balk at library costs

October 4, 2012 12:10 am


Crowded conditions caused King George to expand its library; now supervisors are questioning some costs.


Four of five King George supervisors raised concerns Tuesday night about a request to spend $300,000 more to furnish and equip the county's expanding library.

Supervisor Ruby Brabo said she had "a hard time paying almost $800 for a chair" for children. She was referring to an item called "children's task seating," which listed for $778. Chairs for adults and young adults cost between $193 and $280, according to the inventory.

"There weren't any children's task chairs in the $300 range?" she asked.

Supervisor Joe Grzeika pointed out that the number of computers would increase dramatically--from nine to 49, according to the request--when the addition opens at the L.E. Smoot Memorial Library at King George Courthouse.

"That's a huge, huge change overnight," Grzeika said. "I'm struggling with this. I think you've got to go back to the drawing board and sharpen your pencil."

Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr. and John LoBuglio agreed.

The only supervisor who didn't was Dale Sisson Jr. He said the library addition was a $5 million project, "and we need to invest in it properly."

Later, when the board was in the middle of a motion for another matter, Sisson brought up the library again. He said it's run by a small department "with four and a half folks and a volunteer board of trustees."

Sisson's wife, Tina, is chairwoman of that board.

Last fall, the supervisors approved spending $4.86 million on a construction project that more than doubles the size of the library. The county also appropriated $800,000 for furniture, technology-related expenses and various fees, said County Administrator Travis Quesenberry.

Even with the extra appropriation, the project needs another $300,000 to cover furniture and upgrades to technology and other systems, library director Robin Tenney said.

The existing building is 10,000 square feet. With the addition, which the contractor should finish in the spring, the Smoot library will be 28,000 square feet, Tenney said.

Initially, the architect, the Lukmire Partnership of Arlington, had a budget of $20 per square foot, Tenney said.

"All the associated parties worked tirelessly" to lower expenses, she said. They brought the cost down to $12 per square foot.

"We have cut over $103,000," Tenney said. "We've cut tables and chairs from the floor and tables from the sitting area. If we cut any more, we're going to have an empty floor."

As for the children's task seating that Brabo asked about, Tenney couldn't explain its high cost on Tuesday. She told The Free Lance-Star on Wednesday that it's a bench that a child and parent can at while using a computer.

On Tuesday night, Tenney listed items such as cable installation, switches, software and other systems that accounted for the cost overrun.

Brooks wondered why a new phone system was on the list.

Tenney said the library never had a phone system, per se.

Brooks asked what they used in the past: "Walkie-talkies?"

"We basically opened the back door and shouted," Tenney said, adding that the "phone system" consisted of two lines.

Sisson asked Tenney to explain a $110,195 system called RFID, a Radio Frequency IDentification system that reduces the manpower spent checking out books and taking inventory.

She said the new technology would allow her to transfer one person from the circulation desk to the reference area, which is unmanned.

"That's what I was getting at, that the RFID pays for itself," Sisson said.

LoBuglio suggested the library phase in its computers over two or three years, so they don't need replacing at the same time.

Chairman Brooks told her that's often the Board of Supervisors' approach. "We tell the school system: Scrub it and come back."

That remark prompted Sisson to bring up the library topic later in the meeting, when the board was in the middle of a motion to reappoint Josh Colwell to the Planning Commission.

Sisson said he was afraid the library discussion was left "too open-ended." He said the county was comparing the library to schools, when the library had a much smaller staff.

And, if the library is going to be treated like a county department, it should get county resources, such as guidance from the procurement department in making purchases, Sisson said.

Others agreed. Tenney will work to lower costs and bring back another presentation to the board.

The supervisors also scheduled tours of library facilities on Oct. 16. The tour will start at 4 p.m. at the old King George Middle School, where the library is operating while the construction is under way. Then the tour will move to the Smoot Library, on State Route 3 next to county offices.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.