Scaltreto Outlines HVAC Plan for Library

September 13, 2023
The HVAC system for the Bedford Free Public Library was a big topic of discussion at the Trustees of the Bedford Free Public Library meeting last night. Photo Credit: Robert Dorer

Facilities Director Ron Scaltreto met for an hour with the Trustees of the Bedford Free Public Library last night and reassured the board that “there is a plan” for moving forward with the net zero HVAC system for the building.

Scaltreto favors going to the Nov. 6 Special Town Meeting to request the additional funds needed to move ahead.

Recapping, the March 2020 Annual Town Meeting approved $2.5 Million for replacing the aging system but the pandemic intervened. When the project went out to bid, Scaltreto related, only two bids were received and the lower of the bids was still over the bonded amount. Since that time, labor shortages, increases in material costs, and Town priority for other major projects essentially stymied progress. “Covid changed the landscape,” he said.

The picture has changed now, according to Scaltreto. Contractors are looking for business and the chances are good that more bids will be received. At the same time, costs continue to increase so there is still a need for additional funds in hand before the job can go out to bid.

Scaltreto outlined the process: if the Special Town Meeting votes the needed additional funding (still to be determined), the bidding process would begin in February 2024. The job would be posted on the Central Register and in the trade magazines where municipal projects are listed and bidding would start in March, a six-to-eight-week process. 

“We advertise in the Central Register: Bids from the subcontractors are first, then the general contractor bids come in. Scaltreto is fairly confident that this coming season will see more competitive bidding with more contractors looking to do the work at a more reasonable rate.

“Why wait until February?” asked one trustee.

Scaltreto explained that the middle of the winter is a slow time for contractors and it is more advantageous for bids to be coming in March.

Assuming a favorable bid, Scaltreto would then present the bid to the Select Board for approval.

As for a timeline, Scaltreto envisions starting work at the beginning of May 2024 with the project taking from 13-to-15 months to completion. “We’re seeing a long lead time for equipment,” he said.

About funding: The trustees asked if the additional money needed could come from the Community Preservation Fund. Speaking for the Select Board, Emily Mitchel, liaison to the Trustees, said, “Because the old part of the building is old enough to qualify as historic, a project that works on the entire building is eligible for CP funding.” 

Assistant Director Noreen O’Gara affirmed the bulk of the work will be done in the old part of the building.

The Trustees asked “what if” the system breaks down in the winter? Director Richard Callaghan has more confidence in the heating system than the air conditioning, which he feels is more worrisome.

“We made it through the summer, but we are afraid to shut the system down.” A previous failure caused some damage, but “we were lucky,” Callaghan said.

Given the age of the system, it is impossible to predict where or when it might fail and thus it’s difficult to develop a contingency plan. If there were a catastrophic failure necessitating closure of the building, some services would be relocated elsewhere.

One trustee asked about indoor air quality. Scaltreto reassured her that since Covid, the town has switched to MERV 13 filters, the industry standard, in all town equipment.

The trustees thanked Scaltreto for meeting with them. They were particularly appreciative that he has been involved for many years with Library projects and has institutional knowledge about the building and its needs.

Other building news:

The director reported that worn bathroom floors, rather than being torn up and replaced, are being reglazed by a process that produces a clean, new appearance.

Search Opens for Children’s Librarian

Director Callaghan said the Library will soon begin the search for a Children’s Librarian. Abigail Walzer, who was hired six months ago on a probationary basis, will not be continuing her employment.

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September 15, 2023 8:09 am

Can something be done about the two main entrance doors? I have noticed in the past that, instead of acting as an air lock, (only one door opening at a time) that they are both wide open, allowing a direct blast of cold air to enter in the winter. Perhaps this has already been resolved but, if not, please include it in your plans. Thank you.

Don Marshall

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