MASON, Mich. — The Mason Public Library renovation is set to begin late this year after a long and complicated planning process.
In 2019, renovation proposals for the library were presented to the City Council with a focus on accessibility and redesigning the interior of the building. Originally, the project was expected to cost around $500,000.
The library’s accessibility has been an issue for many years now. The sole bathroom in the building is located in the basement, which is only accessible through a steep stairway. Similarly, the bookshop in the attic can only be accessed through a similar stairway, which is behind the staff counter. The building itself is old and has not had its utilities, such as plumbing and electricity, renovated for some time now.
The old plan featured an attached ramp to a new set of public restrooms, a meeting area attached to the adult/computer room, a new staff area, and renovating the garage. Additionally, infrastructure upgrades such as flooring renovations, and ceiling and plumbing repairs would be made.
However, all that changed with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which caused the project to be placed on hold as the city focused on ensuring citizen safety against the virus. When the project was revisited later in 2021, costs had jumped to around $1.5 million.
Due to the unexpected cost, the project scale shrunk down in size. The new plan still features the planned repairs alongside improvements to accessibility, however several additions such as the meeting room were removed from the plans. Instead, the goal is to renovate the existing areas, such as the furniture being replaced with new modern furniture, and removing a wall between the children’s area and the main room.
“We would rather reduce the scope – which we did, to make it a manageable project that we could get done without disrupting patronage,” said City Manager Deborah Stuart, at the Jan. 30 city council meeting.
It was noted that since 50 percent of Mason residents would use the library, the city agreed to not fund above 50 percent of the project costs. As a result, the city funded approximately 30 percent of the project. Much of the other funding came from grants and donations, such as an approximate $100,000 grant alongside $200,000 fundraised by the library.
During the meeting, the library applied for an additional increase on the city’s funding, presenting the planned budget and outlining the changes to the plan. The motion passed 7-0, and the funding was increased to account for the project’s changes.
“I’m so excited to see this moving, it’s been years.” Said Councilmember Rita Vogel, at the meeting.
According to Scott Duimstra, the Executive Director at Capital Area District Libraries, the project’s plans are also beyond the scope of the Mason branch.
“I think both for us and the city of Mason, we were not only trying to plan out this project, we were trying to figure out our financial futures too.” Duimstra said. “Early in the pandemic, from the library’s point of view, we weren’t certain how the pandemic would impact the library financially.”
“What we saw was that it didn’t… If we were impacted financially, then we wouldn’t have been able to do this project.”
Duimstra encourages residents to look to the Capital Area District Library website, alongside Mason’s website, for updates on the project. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.