Missoula Public Library will adjust costs to cover higher steel, aluminum prices

Groundbreaking for the new Missoula Public Library will be on Aug. 1 at 4 p.m.  (A&E Architects, MSR)

The Missoula Public Library’s development director said Monday that other construction expenses will be adjusted to offset higher steel and aluminum costs created by new tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump.

In an interview, Karl Olson, director of the MPL Foundation, said construction budgets can be revised to meet the unexpected cost increases. Less expensive glass could be used, for example, or the exterior could be altered with a different finish.

The $36 million building project is being financed by a $30 million voter-approved bond and $6 million in private and city contributions.

With groundbreaking set for August, the recently imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum caused an immediate $100,000 spike in rebar costs, library director Honore Bray told Sen. Jon Tester during a telephone news conference last week. She worried that the library would have to raise additional private funds to make up for the sudden increases.

But Olson said he is optimistic that any tariff-produced increases can be offset by downgrading other construction materials.

“It’s this really incredible formula that all these different costs go into,” he said. “If something skyrockets, there are contingencies in that overall budget to make up for some of it and then they can make some changes as well.”

Olson’s comments came in an interview following a presentation by library foundation leaders at Monday’s meeting of City Club Missoula.

From the large windows to the new resources being offered, many who attended the noontime forum were excited about the new building’s Aug. 1 construction launch.

In the works since 2010, the new Missoula Public Library will open in 2020. It will feature four levels, a large underground parking lot and multiple community resources under one roof.

The new MPL will be constructed across the street from the library built on East Main Street in the early 1970s. A change is needed, said Janna Lundquist, a member of the library foundation’s Capital Campaign Committee.

“A lot has changed since then,” Lundquist told the City Club forum. “Our library leaders have done amazing work in the meantime to remodel and adapt the space so that it can be used for more programs, to serve more patrons, to offer more for our Missoula County residents and really use every bit of the square footage of the space that we have there. However, the facts are that the physical guts of the current Missoula Public Library no longer can keep up with the demand and the usage that it receives in the community.”

With Missoula County’s population doubling since the 1970s, the public library serves more than 1,000 people a day, and those numbers are expected to increase.

“It’s a community institution that promotes the well-being of citizens of all ages by being an inviting and accommodating space where true knowledge is valued, curiosity is met with information, imagination is stimulated and learning occurs,” said Geoff Badenoch, a member of the Missoula Public Library Foundation. “This is what we set out for ourselves, and this is what we need for Missoula.”

In order to meet this definition, the library will implement “a one-stop shop for family enrichment” – in the form of a partnership with the University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area, the Children’s Museum Missoula and Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT) to provide services for free to the public.

The library will house a display in the Children’s Museum that will show how Missoula’s water systems work through its aquifer, and provide video editing classes and instructors through the MCAT collaboration. SpectrUM provides knowledge through hands-on exhibits and promotes learning in science, technology, engineering and math.

“Having a library next door with these facilities is really key because if you can imagine a kid going to a science exhibit and learning about something and still being curious, having a library right there, they can continue their inquiries that they’re interested in,” Badenoch said.

Resources provided at the current library will also be available in the new facility, such as the Montana Collection, computer labs and spaces designated for books. Computer labs will be updated, and about 100 laptops will be available for check-out.

Missoulians will be able to use the 3D printer and attend workshops in the new WorkSpace, where residents will be able to learn using tools and technology that adapts with the changing business environment.

Floor plans also provide open space for kids, large windows and balcony space that will overlook the Bitterroot Valley and the University of Montana campus.

Underground parking will provide about three times as much parking as is currently available at the library, and will be accessible to public transit.

Not initially equipped with solar panels, the building is structured so that it can accommodate this energy source, and may be introduced in the near future, Olson said.

With construction so close, Badenoch and others with the foundation are confident the new facility will serve residents for decades to come.

“This is going to be a place where you’ll enjoy being while you’re doing. You’re going to have nice views, you’re going to be taken care of. This is going to be a place that you’ll want to visit,” Badenoch said.

The existing library will be open while construction of the new building is underway. The public groundbreaking will be on Aug. 1 at 4 p.m.