Library eyes major renovations

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney Borough Council approved a request to sponsor the Punxsutawney Memorial Library for a grant in order to perform some much-needed renovations to the building, which is part of the Mahoning East Civic Center.

Monday, library Director Coral Ellshoff asked council’s permission for the library board to change the building’s layout and to sponsor the library for a Keystone Grant, which is a matching grant, so the library board must match dollar-for-dollar what the state gives.

Ellshoff said the board’s priorities — to create more usable space, address energy efficiency and upgrade the restrooms — with the grant include:
• Replacing the small, overbooked meeting space.

• Increasing the limited area for staff to interface with the public.

• Improving energy efficiency and eliminating heat loss through uninsulated walls and automatic doors.

• Replacing outdated light fixtures in order to soon phase out bulbs.

• Improving restrooms, which are poorly lit and unsecure.

The library board is offering a match of $45,000 for the grant, Ellshoff said, and has come up with a list of solutions to these problems:
• Moving the front door back 15 feet, installing motion detectors and replacing outside doors.

• Building half walls to encompass a staff area in the public space, replacing the current circulation desk.

• Renovating staff offices, storage and the kitchen area to create one large meeting room, one small, quiet study room and one staff work area.

• Windows may be installed in new walls, and doors may be replaced with glass to keep things visible and safe.

• Upgrading bathrooms with ADA-compliant locks and sufficient lighting.
Ellshoff said the library board seeks permission to make changes to the borough’s building and requests help from the borough to sponsor the library in its grant application.

“The grant is given to municipalities and not to the public library,” she said. “The priority for the library board, given the amount of money they can put toward this grant, is $45,000 and we’re matched dollar-for-dollar and have a total $90,000 grant.

“The project could be bigger, should the borough want to do other projects and also receive a dollar-for-dollar match,” Ellshoff said, adding that if the borough can help, then solar panels could also be a part of the grant.

She said the library board is seeking borough approval before it puts any time into seeking formal estimates.

The Keystone Grant requires estimates to submit the grant, then one must put the estimates out to bid once approved, she said.

The library has had contractors with which the borough has a working relationship to provide estimated costs for each project.

Council member Eric Story said he had toured the library building and believes an update is in order.

“To turn the lights on, the staff has to do that at the circuit breaker, which is not permitted by code,” he said, noting that if council requires residents to follow building codes, the borough should do so also.

“I think we should consider the solar panel issues at the same time,” he said.

Ellshoff said the grant could be as high as $500,000.

“The board supports the idea of solar panels, but does not have the funds to do it,” she said.

Story said 10 100-watt solar panels would cost about $3,500, with the amount of savings paying for the electric itself in less than a year.
Borough Manager Ben White said the grant project would have to be bid out.

The grant application is due Oct. 1, Ellshoff said, and if the borough wants to change it, that would be fine.

“I just need to know if council is OK with the board making changes to your building, and if you’ll work with us on the grant,” she said.

Council President Larry Chenoga said council should also investigate bringing electric service in the library up to code.

White said perhaps solar panels could be purchased by the borough as a side project, and not part of the grant.

Story said eventually, the borough could acquire panels for the civic center and the three fire stations.

Fire Department Chief Bryan Smith said the lights in the truck bay at Central are also activated through the breaker panel.

A motion was approved to have a certified electrician investigate the electrical wiring at the library and Central.

Also Monday, council:
• Approved a request from Kim Rhodes to hold a run/walk from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 6 at Barclay Square to bring awareness about bullying.

Rhodes said she had received permission to hold the majority of the run/walk on the Mahoning Shadow Trail.

“Bullying is an epidemic, and my program covers the entire northwest region of Pennsylvania,” Rhodes said.

• Tabled a request from Indiana University of Pennsylvania to place lamp pole banners recognizing the 50th-year celebration of student success at the Punxsutawney campus.

Chenoga said council required more information as to where the banners are to be placed.