Library Room Cost Jump Upsets Planners

Posted: January 22, 1988

Graham Finney, chairman of the city Planning Commission, said he was in a bad mood yesterday.

He said his mood was particularly bad, considering that the commission has been asked to recommend doubling the money to build a meeting room at the Chestnut Hill Library, Germantown Avenue near Rex.

"This is the original camel in the tent," Finney said of the library meeting room project. "In a town with so many needs in an area with so many meeting spaces, this is absolutely ludicrous."

The commission recommended against funding the project last year, but it was overruled by City Council, which allocated $401,000 to it. This year, the work estimate has jumped to $975,000.

That's because last year's estimates were too low and the project got bigger. It now includes a larger meeting room and renovations to the rest of the library, said William Roberts, the library budget officer.

In addition, contractors who would normally do the work are busy with the city's construction boom, and are submitting higher and higher bids for public projects, Roberts said.

Competing with the Chestnut Hill Library for funds are the city's environmental health lab, repairs to deteriorated city buildings and streets, and improvements to the city's parks and playgrounds.

By Feb. 18, the commission must squeeze $76 million in capital project requests into a $50 million budget. That capital budget, for the fiscal year 1989, represents a $5 million increase over last year's figure. The increase is due to Center City office building development expanding the city's tax base.

The commission will make recommendations to Mayor Goode, who plans to present the capital budget to City Council for approval in March.

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