Tuesday, December 01, 2015

TOP STORY >> Sherwood sees library opening middle of 2017

Leader staff writer

Energy efficiency, meeting rooms with a shared kitchen and an “outdoorsy” or “rustic” look were ideas discussed last week as Taggart Architects gathered input on designing the new $6 million Sherwood library.

Seated at the same table was Central Arkansas Library System Director Bobby Roberts, and several city officials attended the meeting.

Preliminary plans call for a building of about 14,000 square feet. In November 2014, voters approved a temporary 1.3-mill property tax increase for the project — an estimated annual cost of $39 for the owner of a $150,000 home.

One mom wanted to know when the building would open because her son, coming from Oakbrooke Elementary near the current Amy Sanders Library, is enrolling at Sylvan Hills Middle School. The new library will also be within walking distance, on Johnson Avenue and behind the Mapco gas station on Hwy. 107, and he’s excited about it, Charlotte Watson said.

Roberts and city officials told her that, for tax reasons, the property owner doesn’t want to close on the sale of his 14 acres until after the first of this year. The land still needs surveyed, and soil samples must be taken before construction begins, the system director explained.

Roberts said, once all that is done, it would probably take crews 15 months to build the library. He added that city officials could speed things up by getting permission to access the property before the sale is finalized.

Mayor Virginia Young said she would look into that, noting that she didn’t think the property owner would have a problem with the city having early access.

The mayor also mentioned at the meeting that she’d seen a life-size chess set at another library and wondered if Sherwood could have something like that.

Roberts answered that the system would match up to $45,000 for a piece of public art. That means, if someone donates $45,000, the system would spend $45,000 and the library would get a $90,000 display.

Alderman Beverly Williams helped kick off the brainstorming portion of the meeting by responding to comments that adults and children should have separate areas.

She noted that the middle-school kids shouldn’t be left out.

Williams added that Sher-wood also has a large elderly population. The new library should have a good selection of books on tape for them and a delivery service, the alderman said.

Williams also suggested incorporating a safe room in the new library.

Several people supported the idea of both permanent and rotating displays at the new facility. Amy Sanders, the current library’s namesake and a founding mother of Sherwood, said she’d like to see an exhibit there on the city’s history.

Roberts noted that local history, along with genealogy and environmental topics, could be part of the facility’s programming.

One attendee told him the new library should have plenty of plugs, better Wi-Fi and TVs in each meeting room.

Roberts agreed with those points, adding that the system had already bought more bandwith to improve wireless Internet at all of its branches and is keeping in mind that streaming videos will be in demand soon.

Alderman Ken Keplinger wants the new library to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified, saying that would be a credit to Sherwood. He also asked that installing electric car charging stations there be considered

Roberts and the architects said they would look into the certification as an option, but warned that it can be costly, with a price tag of about $70,000.

Energy efficiency is a goal of the project.

The system director said he and the architects want the building to have a lot of natural lighting. They will also be looking at the feasiblity of using solar panels and geothermal energy.

Everyone at the meeting also seemed to embrace the idea of nearby walking trails.

Planning Commission Chairman Lucien Gillham brought up the issue of drainage, noting that some buildings have been constructed at ground level to avoid the necessity of ramps to meet ADA standards.

He was assured that, while the desire was to avoid ramps, good drainage would be factored into the plans.

Watson, the mom, added that better lighting in the parking lot and more spaces are needed, in addition to changing stations in men’s and women’s restrooms. A family restroom could be included in the design instead, she noted.

Watson was told the new library would have changing tables available to moms and dads.