The effort to keep the Indiana Free Library in the Indiana Borough-owned Community Center Building got a boost Tuesday with the announcement that a $500,000 state grant is available to help pay for needed repairs to the century-old building.
“The money is there and is ours,” borough manager William Sutton told council. A stipulation, he added, is that the borough council must make a commitment to have a dialogue with the library trustees to determine if they are interested in keeping the library there, and if so, how long of a lease can be negotiated.
Sutton credited state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, and state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, with securing the grant. The money will be available by the end of the year, and in the near future council must make a commitment to accept the grant, Sutton said.
He also said that since taking on the extra role of borough manager in addition to being police chief, his focus has been on looking for ways to finance needed improvements to the community center building to make it suitable for any tenant. The “big-ticket items” the building needs are new windows, a new roof and upgrades to the ventilation system, all projected to cost about $500,000.
The library has been located in the Community Center Building at Philadelphia and North Ninth streets since 1934. The lease between the borough and library will expire at the end of 2015.
Library trustees have repeatedly said they need a long-term lease — something extending well beyond 2015 — to be eligible for grants that are critical for keeping the library operating. Council has been reluctant to offer a long lease because the building needs extensive repairs, fixes the borough cannot afford to make on its own.
Because of that impasse, library trustees announced in 2010 they would begin searching for a new site for the library.
The situation appeared more positive last fall when the library trustees and council jointly applied for an ambitious $500,000 Keystone Grant, administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Office of Commonwealth Libraries, to perform restoration work and repairs on the Community Center Building. But borough officials and library trustees were informed this spring the grant application was not funded.
Sutton said he likely will invite the library’s executive leaders to council’s next Administration Committee meeting to discuss the grant and the trustees’ intentions on staying or leaving the Community Center Building.
“The board’s going to have to talk about this,” Sherry Kuckuck, president of the library trustees, said following Tuesday’s council meeting.
Sutton suggested that council carefully consider what repairs to make with the $500,000 grant in light of the fact that council may also soon undertake an energy savings project that would identify improvements to make the Community Center Building and other borough-owned buildings more energy-efficient.
At Tuesday’s council work session, representatives of Constellation Energy Group, an energy services company also known as ESCo, described how the company’s energy specialists could find ways to make the borough’s buildings more efficient through new technologies. The improvements would be paid for through a loan, and the loan would be repaid through the annual savings realized by the new technologies.
“Anything and everything energy-related can be looked at,” said Joe Hudak, a Constellation senior business development manager.
New lighting can be a quick payback, in as little as five or six years, he said. The payback from installing new higher-efficiency windows can take longer, possibly 20 years.
Hudak said the borough spends about $405,000 annually on electricity, natural gas, water/sewage bills, street lights and operating the sewer treatment plant. His company’s preliminary research projects that energy efficiency improvements could yield up to 30 percent savings, allowing the borough to tackle improvements worth $750,000 to $1 million that could be paid for through cost savings over 15 years.
The next step, if council decides to proceed further with an energy savings program, would be to authorize Constellation to perform an investment grade audit of the borough’s energy usage and energy expenses. Council may take that step at its Aug. 6 meeting.
Constellation is the firm overseeing a comprehensive energy-savings project for the Indiana Area School District.
PHOTO: Gerald Smith, center, was sworn in Tuesday as Indiana’s newest council member, filling the vacancy created by the resignation earlier this month of Tom Shively. Smith, who represents the Second Ward, won a Democratic nomination for council in the spring primary election. Shively was not running for re-election. Indiana Mayor George Hood, left, administered the oath of office, and Larry DeChurch, right, who was sworn in two weeks ago to fill another Second Ward vacancy on council created by the resignation in May of William Simmons, held the Bible for Tuesday’s ceremony. (MICHAEL WALKER/Gazette)