Wheeler 12th on state list for library construction funds

  • Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/7/2019 11:29:44 PM

ORANGE — For 104 years, Wheeler Memorial Library has remained unrenovated and unchanged.

So, even though renovations could be another two years away, the fact that the library is 12th on the state’s waiting list for a construction grant is exciting news to library Director Jessica Magelaner. 

“The building itself has been the same since the day it opened,” Magelaner said.

Wheeler is asking the state for $5,285,727, which is 53.2 percent of the cost of a construction project that includes adding a community room, another floor — not to the building, but splitting the library's high-ceiling main floor in half — and making the building fully accessible. 

And it’s no longer a matter of whether the library will get funding, but when and how much. Wheeler is one of 19 towns on the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Construction Grant Waiting List.

The state will eventually grant the library an amount of money up to the full amount asked for, but the specific number is dependent on a number of factors, including the cost of projects ahead of Wheeler on the list and the amount of money the state’s Department of Administration & Finance allocates for library construction grants in whatever year Orange is up to the plate, which Magelaner said could be one to two years from now.

Magelaner said the Library Building Committee —which meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month, usually at Fisher Hill Elementary School — is amenable to the public, and could change details of the construction project if people show up to meetings and give strong feedback. Changing details of the project would not take Orange off of the state’s list. 

“We want this to be the library people want to see in town,” Magelaner said. “Things can change over a couple of years.”

For now, the priorities are a new floor and community room, which would “get the kids out of the basement” where the children’s library is, Magelaner said, as well as making the building fully accessible. Accessibility is unrealistic without a sizeable grant, Magelaner said, because it would require lots of construction. Building ramps isn’t doable, because they would be too long, due to the layout of the building’s entrance staircases. 

According to Magelaner, the rest of the funding of the project would have to come through fundraising or town money. People can donate to: Wheeler Memorial Library, 49 East Main St., Orange, MA 01364, with checks made out to “Friends of the Orange Public Libraries.”

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268. ‘


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