The year 2019 is rapidly coming to a close and that got me wondering about the proposed expansion and total renovation of the Watertown Public Library, especially as it pertains to the fundraising effort which is closely tied to whether the project can and will be built.

The challenge the city fathers gave to library supporters was that the necessary funds had to be raised by the end of the year for the common council to make good on its promise to commit $4,380,000 toward the project. The council has included funding in the 2020 budget and that’s a good thing.

I talked with Peg Checkai, Watertown’s librarian, this week on the progress and learned that the vast majority of the money has been either collected or pledged but that about $115,000 of the fund raising effort remains to be pinned down.

In recent days, a $100,000 commitment was made to the library project by one individual, and that narrowed the gap of money still needed.

She said there are a fair amount of potential donors out there who for one reason or another have not made a final commitment or who have to go through a “chain of command” before a decision is reached.

The way funding for the approximately $10 million project will be pulled together includes:

$4,380,000 from the city of Watertown and that amount is to be borrowed as part of the city’s annual financing needs, an up-front contribution of $1,500,000 from the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation, an additional $1,000,000 from the community health foundation when the community fundraising goal is reached and then about another $2,800,000 in local fundraising efforts. These are approximate numbers.

There’s also an issue of preparation and blacktopping of the parking lot adjacent to the new library when it is finished and that is not included in the project cost at this point but will be addressed as things move along.

So, if you as an individual or as a company representative have not made a commitment to this fundraising effort as of yet but are giving it some thought, you’re encouraged to reach out to library fundraising committee and commit to the amount you can pay and/or pledge.

The fundraising leaders dearly want to have this phase of the financing put to bed before the end of the year.

There are some potential strong donors who as of yet have not made a commitment and here’s hoping some of these will get wrapped up soon.

Earlier in the year the library initiated a fundraiser in which 100 women were asked to step forward with donations of $1,000 each, either in cash or in four annual installments of $250 each. That effort was wildly successful and ended up with 180 women making that commitment for a total of $180,000 donated or pledged.

Another successful effort has been the sale of pavers with messages on them. To date the paver drive has collected over $100,000 and people can still donate. There are various sizes available in different price ranges and with differing length of messages that can be engraved on them. This is yet another way to support the library project.

Spearheading the fundraising effort for the library are three community-minded citizens. They are Don Kwapil, John Ebert and Jonathon Lampe. If you have been contacted by one of those three and have not firmed up a commitment, now is the time to give them or Peg Checkai at her library office a call and become part of this project.

First the final gifts are needed to reach the goal, but going over the top is also important. You never know where the bids will end up and, no doubt, as the actual construction commences, there will be some changes and items that are needed and will likely cost a little more money. So the greater the cushion the better the project will come out.

We’ve been told most construction companies are pretty busy these days and that could mean bid prices could have upward pressure, and, of course, there are the embargo and tariff issues looming that certainly could have an effect on some facets of the project.

So, a big final push for more contributions, from those who have not as of yet made the commitment or even some who have made one but now feel they could do a little more, would help considerably. There’s also no doubt some people who “feel through the cracks” and had not been contacted. Now is the time to step forward.

We looked at this with Peg this past week and we can see it is going to be an exciting project for the entire community.

Watertown has a lot of meeting rooms available throughout the city, but it never seems to be enough for that purpose.

At the present time the library plans call for a large meeting room for presentations and other uses that will seat upwards of 185 and will have easy access from the entrance, which means this use won’t disturb regular library patrons. The main entrance is likely to be at the corner of Main and Water streets.

In addition, surveys in the community point to the need for more small meeting spaces and a number of those will be sprinkled throughout the enlarged building.

And, with families being a prime user of the library facilities, drive-through service was another priority and that is also included in the planning.

Just across the street on the south side of the 100 block of West Main Street, buildings will be razed soon, possibly by the end of the year, to make way for the town-square concept. As part of that project, the library is planning to have easily accessible restrooms near the corner so they can be used to events at the town square.

How old is the current library? Well, the original building is a Carnegie project that was completed in 1907. An addition was constructed many years later and then razed to accommodate the addition that was built in 1984.

With all the changes in society and technology and the population growth since 1984, it’s clear the library is in need of major upgrading.

If all goes according to the current plans and schedule, groundbreaking could be held as early as June of 2020 with completion by the end of the year in 2021.

Couple this project with the town square on the next block and it will be a big shot in the arm for the entire community and especially the downtown.

But, first some additional commitments are needed to put the fundraising goal over the top!


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