JWG (jwg) wrote,

Civic involvement and some good results

I've been reporting from time to time about several of my civic activities in Cambridge - one is to get a new public library, and the other was to get back a dance space in the city as part of a planned Youth and Community center. Last night was a very important City Council meeting because the bond authorizations for the two projects were on the agenda.

In the case of the Library they needed another $13 million to meet the rapidly escalating construction costs - $63 million had already been authorized. Last January when they opened the bid from the one general contractor it was way too high. They did some redesign to reduce some costs - supposedly no important function was removed. They went out to bid again working harder to get multiple bids and this time they decided to accept one of the bids. It is estimated that there is a 1% inflation of building costs per month (mostly due to Katrina construction) so the 11 month delay probably cost much of the savings. The project includes renovation of the existing historical building that serves as the main library; constructing a new attached building so the total new size is a bit over 90,000 sq. feet; an underground parking garage; complete renovation/improvement of the park; and some improvements to the high school. These three entities share a crowded site in mid-Cambridge about 1/2 mile from where we live.

The other project is to build a Youth and Community Center on the site of the old VFW post where the dances were held. This facility will have a number of project rooms on the first floor and a multi-purpose hall on the top floor with a stage, sprung floor suitable for dancing, an AV room, storage space, bathrooms, mini-kitchen, and an entrance space. In the rear is a separate entrance VFW post and on top of it is a gym/fitness center that is connected to the the rest of the Youth & Community Center. The bond request was for $10 million which is in addition to the $7 million already authorized.

At the public comment period I gave a short speech supporting both projects. I was appointed by the City Manager to the Library committee in May of 1996 and later to the Design Advisory Committee. I have been to more than 100 public meetings on this project. For the Youth & Community I was the representative of the Contra Dancers and only had to go to 6-8 meetings for this project. Prior to the council meeting I attempted to contact most of the City Councillors and did end up speaking to 5 of the 9 of them.

Fortunately Cambridge is a rich city, with the highest municipal bond rating in the country, and relatively low tax rates so these projects are really affordable and acceptable to the voters. Both measures were passed last night. Because it is a bond issue, another vote after public advertisement is needed and that is scheduled for Monday, December 18. And then let the digging begin - and in a couple of years they should be done.
Tags: cambridge, dance hall, library

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