The Morning Report
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I’ve spoken with Darren Greenhalgh from the city’s engineering and capital projects department about what appeared to be a miscalculation in the revised cost and budget estimates for the schoobrary that he sent to acting state librarian Stacey Aldrich last week.
The issue now seems to have been cleared up. The problem was that in a grant application to the state, the city had listed itself as the source of $27.5 million that was actually coming from private donors. The project, which as of this moment has a total cost of around $175 million, will be paid for through a combination of redevelopment money, lease revenue from the school district, private donations and a $20 million state grant.
However, in order to get the state grant, the city has to submit an accounting of the other revenue sources. The state provides 65 cents on the dollar in matching funds on eligible expenses, up to a total of $20 million. The downtown library project easily qualifies for the full amount.
In his initial breakdown, Greenhalgh’s office included the $80 million in downtown redevelopment money and $20 million that the school district would pay to lease two floors of the library for a charter school. But his office also mistakenly listed the city as the source of more than $29 million, which apparently included the $27.5 million that have been pledged by private donors. That brought the total up to about $130 million, even though it should have been a simple breakdown of the $100 million figure.
By mistakenly including those funds in the breakdown, it appeared earlier this week that the city had formally listed itself as the source of the $27.5 million that have been pledged by private donors for the project in order to protect the identities of those donors. Library supporters who raised that money have refused to identify the donors until the project is bid.
That means that on paper, at least, the city has not provided the state librarian’s office with the details it requested on the source of the $27.5 million in private donations. As a condition of extending the $20 million grant, the state librarian asked for specific details on those funds after expressing concerns over whether they would actually be available.
According to Richard Hall, a facilities consultant at the state librarian’s office, because the city did not list private funds in its revenue breakdown sent last week, the state’s concern with that information is essentially rendered moot. But the state still does have an interest, he said, in making sure that that money eventually comes through to fund the project.
Despite the confusion, city officials say they’re confident everything will get squared away. Mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Laing said the city has guaranteed the money, even though it will not be legally responsible for it if it does not come through.
Laing said the city had been provided with certified letters proving the pledges are backed by real funds, but the city’s letter to the state, sent Monday, did not mention the private donations.
It will be up to Aldrich to decide whether the city has sufficiently satisfied the state’s requests. I’ll follow up with the city and the state librarian, and keep you updated on the latest developments.