BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township Library is seeking to repair a major electrical system, and is looking for an assist from the Bridgewater Township Council.
Councilman Allen Kurdyla had explained in June that there have been problems with the heating-ventilation-air conditioning (HVAC) system at the Bridgewater branch, and brought up the idea of possibly securing a grant to help pay for repairs. He said he had spoken with Chris Korenowsky, director of public services for the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey, the organization that governs 10 libraries over a 180-mile span in the county including Bridgewater.
Korenowsky spoke before the council Aug. 5 about the New Jersey Library Construction Act, which he said was made available to local libraries by the State Library of New Jersey, which is an affiliate of Thomas Edison State University. He added that voters approved a bond act by a 60-to-40 percent margin in 2017 that allotted $125 million in general obligation bonds for construction and re-construction regarding public library buildings in New Jersey.
“This turned out to be a competitive grant program, made available to townships and boroughs,” said Korenowsky. “It’s monetary awards given to improve library facilities in the state.”
He added that there are three separate application criteria involved in obtaining said funding. The first is general construction needs, for building updates and revisions, and the second is for a major building award, such as for a new roof or new HVAC system.
The third is for updates to accommodate individuals with disabilities, per the American Disabilities Act (ADA).
Korenowsky said the town council would be responsible for providing a 50 percent matching award for the grant, “in partnership with the state.”
Korenowsky added that the municipal governing body could bond for all or part of the match, by passing a resolution. If the resolution regarding the grant was approved, a bond ordinance would then be required of the council.
The HVAC system at the Bridgewater Public Library, Korenowsky said, has been “somewhat problematic the last several years,” particularly in its cooling component. He added that the last time such equipment was approved was back in 1998, or roughly once in a generation.
He also said that there is pre-grant work required, beginning with an engineering study of the HVAC system to review its mechanical equipment. The study would be commissioned with township approval, and would ultimately provide the governing body with a written report of the system and the replacement equipment needed.
Korenowsky said there are 170 potential library construction projects in the state, totaling some $370 million in grant requests. He reiterated that there is only $125 million “in the bank,” and that not all projects will ultimately be funded.
Beginning July 1, he said, a 60-day period had begun for public comments, which will be followed by a 30-day window to allow for responses to those comments. Following that second period, the grant application will be submitted to the state library and its seven-member “blue ribbon” panel, according to Korenowsky, with the state librarian to decide the actual awards before they are forwarded to the state legislature for approval.
Bridgewater council vice president Howard Norgalis asked what the estimated grant cost for Bridgewater’s library would be, and Korenowsky replied that costs won’t be known until the mechanical engineering study of the HVAC system has been completed.
“That has to be done first,” he said.
Township administrator James Naples said the municipality owns the Bridgewater branch, and that the original library building had employed a chiller for cooling purposes. After the building was expanded in size, no additional chiller was added, with 10 air handlers instead working to keep the structure cool.
That doesn’t always happen in the summer months, he said, and has since prompted numerous complaints.
“It gets very stuffy on hot days,” said Naples, with the library also having had to close on some days due to the heat. “The system is really on its last legs.”
Naples also said that a study for the new HVAC system would cost about $6,000. It would be paid for through the existing library budget, and would provide a cost estimate before the municipality applied for the grant.
He said the administration is moving forward with the study.
“The next step is to decide to move forward with the grant, with council approval,” Naples said.
Korenowsky said a letter of intent to the state will also be required, if the grant is awarded to Bridgewater. The council could then bond to match all or part of the grant.
A bond ordinance would be proof of the bond.
Council president Matthew Moench mentioned possibly using cash instead, while Kurdyla said he believed the letter of intent would accomplish the same thing. Moench said it is still early in the process, while Naples said the state requires some type of commitment.
“It sounds like it’s reached the end of its useful life,” said Norgalis of the HVAC system.
Naples added that HVAC repairs are not eligible for funding from Green Energy or similar programs.
The month of September will have the 30-day period for responses to grant queries, with the grant application to be published in October, according to Korenowsky. The application will then be due to the state library in January.