Brookfield considers 22 proposals for new library

BROOKFIELD — Officials are sifting through 22 proposals from architects seeking to design a new library, but where that facility will be built remains unknown.

The town issued a request for proposals last month to design a 32,000-square-foot building, which library officials hope will be located in the Four Corners neighborhood.

Brookfield purchasing agent Jerry Gay, who is advising a committee charged with recommending a firm, said the group was meeting Thursday night and would interview the top choices Tuesday night. The committee, which includes two members each from the Library Board of Trustees and Municipal Buildings Committee, and Library Director Anita Barney, hopes to present its choice to the Board of Selectmen in December.

“It’s key that what we’re looking at is which firms have the general philosophy we feel comfortable with,” Gay said. “Do you get that warm and fuzzy feeling about it? Every one of those 22 people can do this building, but which is going to be best fit? It’s going to be an agonizing choice.”

Christina Cumberton, who chairs the New Library Committee, has said upgrading the facility is necessary because the current building is too small to meet demand. New features would include meeting rooms, a performance space, a dedicated area for children’s programming, and a “maker space” that could be used by anyone from knitters to residents seeking to use a 3-D printer.

Though an architect could be in place by December, drawings of the new building will likely have to wait until a site is chosen. In the meantime, Cumberton said, the firm can determine the specifics of what will be in the proposal.

“What the firm can do is go out in the community and see what the community wants to see,” she said. “The exterior will reflect where it fits, but without the plot of land, it’s really tough to do the drawings.”

The Four Corners neighborhood, which the town is trying to develop into a bustling downtown, is the preferred choice for the new library because officials see the facility as a major amenity and draw for the area. But it is unclear where the new building could go since the town owns no land in the area.

First Selectman Steve Dunn offered few details about what property the town is considering purchasing, but said there are a few options — one of which is “centrally located” in the Four Corners.

He said that he prefers to purchase land, rather than lease it, and said that doing so might cost upwards of $1.5 million.

“My preference is to purchase the property. It’s less expensive in the long-run and you control it,” Dunn said. “It doesn’t make any sense to lease it, in my opinion.”

But he noted that both purchasing land and building a new library require voter approval and must be weighed against other town projects, such as a major renovation or replacement of Huckleberry Hill School and a new police station.

“The problem we have is that we’re very passionate about all these things,” he said. “I’m not sure we’re going to have funding available to do all of those things at the same time. We have to make some hard decisions as to what we want.”