As expected, state Librarian Susan Hildreth has agreed to extend a $20 million state grant to give the city time to submit more information about the proposed downtown library.

Hildreth sent a letter today to Mayor Jerry Sanders, giving the city until July 1 for information she had originally requested — namely a revised project timeline and budget — after the city asked to extend the grant in December. The proposal to place a 300-student high school on two floors of the library — a concept we’ve dubbed a schoobrary — became public shortly before the grant was set to expire.

The state librarian states that the extension should give the city time to negotiate an agreement with the school district and complete a feasibility study to examine how the library would have to be changed to comply with school construction codes.

In her letter, Hildreth states that she remains “concerned about the viability of local funds that are committed to this project.” She asks for “donor agreement letters or similar documents that verify the availability of the $33 million in private contributions” mentioned in the city’s letter. Only $3 million in private donations have been publicly pledged for the library.

The state librarian also asks for verification that $80 million in downtown redevelopment funds remain “committed to the project.”

Among the information that Hildreth asks the city to provide is a revised cost estimate of the library, which was last pegged at $185 million in 2005 after originally being estimated at $150 million in 2002. The school’s involvement could increase the cost because of strict school construction codes, which typically hike a building’s price tag by about 5 percent.

The school district is exploring the idea of seeking an exemption from the construction laws, but that could be problematic, as I wrote about last week.

In that story, Hildreth said she would grant an extension because the school district and city appeared to be making their “best efforts” and that her office wanted to support them in finding out whether the project was feasible.


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