CRANBURY, NJ – Supporters of building a new library in the township will likely have to wait a bit longer for shovels to hit the ground due to a shortfall of about $400,000 from the funds raised to the recently opened bids to build the project.

According to a press release from Cranbury Public Library Director Marilynn Mullen, some 17 bids on the estimated $3 million project were opened July 26, with the lowest going to Thomas & Sons Builders, LLC, of New Milford, at $3,089,197.

The Library Foundation raised $2.6 million through private donations from some 700 residents, according to officials.

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“We’ve been working towards a cost estimate for some time, and now we know the amount to proceed,” Library Board President Kirstie Venanzi said in the release. “While we hoped to have enough today to move forward, there is a gap of about $400,000 before we can accept the bid and award the contract. We are exploring options to see if we can complete the funding for the project in the next 60 days.”

According to the release, supporters of the project are planning to appear at the Aug. 14 Township Committee meeting at town hall to see what can be done to move forward on the project.

“We are asking our supporters to attend the meeting and let the committee know how important this project is to them,” Mullen said in the release.

If a solution is not forthcoming, the bids would need to be rejected and the process would start all over again with a new proposal going out for another round of bidding.

One possibility the Library Foundation is exploring is a state matching program that could cover part, or all, of the shortfall, if approved by state voters in November, officials said.

According to the release, Gov. Chris Christie signed the NJ Library Construction Bond Act last week, placing it on the general election ballot in November.

If approved, the act could provide matching funds for approved library construction projects in New Jersey. Timing and criteria for this project will be determined by the State Librarian, the release said.

The big sticking point is that committee members said they favored the project if the foundation “had the money in the bank” for the construction.

While Committeeman Jay Taylor praised the “passion” and fundraising efforts, he said this week that the supporters need to beat some more donation bushes to fill the gap.

“To build the library they must have enough cash in their accounts. They did not have $2.9 million in their accounts in 2015, which is the equivalent of $3 million today,” Taylor said. “I am fully supportive of their efforts, but the library needs to close the gap, in my view, with additional fundraising. And those who really want a new building will need to come forward to help.”

Taylor said the shortfall also does not consider a “contingency fund” of five-percent of the cost in case of cost overruns, which would make the gap closer to $550,000.

“I was hoping we would be finished with the major fundraising,” Library Foundation President Michael Ferrante said in the release. “But now we have clarity on exactly how far we are from the finish line. I am confident of our ability to reach our goal. All of Cranbury will benefit from this new community space.”

Since 1960, the library has shared space in the Cranbury School Media Center.

After acknowledging this arrangement didn’t meet the needs of either group, a foundation was set up in 2009 to raise funds for a stand-alone library and community center, the release said.

According to the release, donations to help close the gap can be dropped off at the library; additional ways to give can be found at the Foundation website (www.cranburylibraryfoundation.org).

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