After several aborted attempts to plan and build a structure to replace the deservedly maligned Champaign Public Library that is not yet 30 years old, things are finally looking up for the city's library board, and the library administration and staff.
Construction is under way on a new library triple the size of the existing facility, the work done so far is on time and – best of all – construction bids on the project have come in under estimates.
That's doubly important because at the time of the new library's groundbreaking last summer, there were concerns that the cost of construction materials was about to skyrocket in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But that hasn't happened because, so far, there has been so little construction in New Orleans and the other areas battered by the hurricanes. Except for some brief increases in the costs of certain materials, construction has been largely unaffected by the hurricanes. But that won't last forever. The latest estimates are that construction costs will increase in 2007.
But the timing of the library's construction bids, as well as healthy competition among contractors for the construction work, will allow the library board to vote later this month on some additional building features. Among the features are higher-quality roofing materials, automatic window shades and security cameras throughout the building – yet the project will still meet its $29.4 million construction cost target.
Some believe that the library board shouldn't add new features to the project and should build a library as inexpensively as possible. But that's the kind of thinking that gave Champaign a wasteful and ugly library building in 1978. Better the city build a solid, high-quality library that citizens can be proud of for many decades, rather than try to get by with a cheap structure that has to be replaced again in 30 years.