Birchard Public Library pushes ahead with expansion/renovation project



FREMONT – Momentum for the Birchard Public Library’s planned addition and renovation project has been building for years, as the library listened to residents about what was needed to transform a building that’s been around since 1874.

After hearing from residents through several focus group meetings and surveys, the library’s board is pushing ahead on the project.

There’s plans for an on-site archaeological survey next year and the board approved Tuesday putting a $3.24 million down payment toward the project, which has a preliminary estimated price tag of between $5.5 million and $6 million.

Pam Hoesman, Birchard’s director, said this week she talked to the library’s bond counsel earlier this month about the possibility of Birchard issuing two United States Department of Agriculture library facility notes, one for the building addition and a second for furniture and equipment, to assist with the project’s funding.

The board also approved a notice of intent Tuesday to file for USDA funding.

Hoesman said the library could be eligible for state grant funding for the project.

“We’ve really been beating the bushes to find grants and funding where we could find it,” Hoesman said.

Birchard will add a 4,250 square foot wing with a new entrance and parking lot on the west end of its current Fremont building. 

The addition will extend across the street and into the library’s western block, which is on the Croghan Street property that used to house the old Fremont Middle School building.

Birchard Library Board President Jim Ellis said the library had built up a good cash reserve to fund part of the project.

The Birchard Library Association Foundation is also raising money for the project through a capital campaign, Ellis said.

He told other board members Tuesday he would prefer not to have too big of a loan for the new project.

“We’ve been saving for this,” Ellis said.

New library project details

Fremont City Schools and the Birchard Public Library board signed a property transfer agreement in December 2014 for the district’s 2.2-acre property on Croghan Street adjacent to the library.

The Birchard Public Library property now consists of two city blocks. 

Construction plans for the library’s addition include the removal of High Street, the street that is between the two blocks. 

The library has been working with the Buehrer Group, Architecture and Engineering, Inc., to devise a plan for the new addition.

Hoesman gave the News-Messenger a series of preliminary renderings Buehrer produced to show what the library may look like once the project is completed.

Ellis said the 8,500 square foot addition on the west side of the library will include a technology room, four tutoring rooms and a new children’s area.

Other planned features in the addition, according to the library, include:

• Spaces for learning to create sound and video productions to enhance marketing and entrepreneurial skills.

• A WiFi café where citizens can utilize tablets and other digital devices.

• A sensory room for children with special needs who need a space to regain calm.

• A dedicated teen room offering programs, services and resources designed to engage young adults.

• Additional meeting rooms to encourage discussion of literature, the arts and current events by a wide variety of local groups, organizations and individuals.

• A local history room and museum celebrating the history of Sandusky County.

Library officials also want a more spacious and easily accessible entry closer to handicap parking spaces, as well as ADA compliant restrooms on all floors offering public services.

Ellis said a priority also had been placed on upgrading the library’s entrance.

“We felt we needed a nicer entrance than what we have,” Ellis said.

Partners on the project

The library purchased the old middle school site for $1 in 2014.

In the transfer agreement between Birchard and FCS, there are deed covenants in place that call for the library to collaborate with the school district on building a memorial to the former middle school and British soldiers from the Battle of Fort Stephenson buried onsite.

Other covenants hold that the library would consult with the Sandusky County Historical Society and Fremont Area Foundation regarding the use of the property, which cannot be used solely as a parking lot.

There can be parking put on the property in connection with other primary, non-parking uses.

Ellis said the school district and the city of Fremont are partners with Birchard on the project.

He said Fremont City Schools had set aside money for the memorial.

Fremont Safety Service Director Kenneth Frost said this week the city has been willing to vacate some property to assist the library with the addition. 

“We’re trying to whatever we can to work with them,” Frost said.

Hoesman said it will take an estimated 12 months to complete construction on the library’s addition.

Once that’s done, work will begin on renovations to Birchard’s existing building.

Hoesman said the Buehrer firm will being working on the project’s blueprints in the near future.

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Twitter: @DanielCarson7

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