Design work finally moving forward on Powell Library

Posted 10/19/21

After combing over the details for the past few months, Park County officially has an architect on board to design an improved Powell Library.

A final contract between the county and GSG …

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Design work finally moving forward on Powell Library

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After combing over the details for the past few months, Park County officially has an architect on board to design an improved Powell Library.

A final contract between the county and GSG Architecture was signed earlier this month, and the Sheridan-based firm is meeting with library officials this week to kick off the process.

GSG’s task is to come up with ways to better use the Powell Library’s existing structure and to plan a potential expansion.

“I’m excited,” said Park County Library System Director Karen Horner. “... I think they’re gonna come back with some really innovative ideas [about] what we could really do with that space.”

Library boosters have long contended that the Powell community has outgrown the current facility, seeing a need for more space for teens and meetings, among other things. They commissioned a 2019 needs assessment that found the building was “totally inadequate” and in the fall of 2020, the supporters persuaded Park County commissioners to hire an architect to design possible improvements.

Commissioners have not committed to actually upgrading the library — and no county money is being spent on the design work — but in June, they selected GSG Architecture. The original timeline proposed by the company envisioned an initial report being submitted by the end of August, with a final report due in January.

However, it wound up taking the county and library leaders four months to hammer out a final version of the contract with GSG. The revised timeline now calls for a final report in early April.

Changes to the contract included adding an owner’s approval clause that will allow the county to give authorization before the renderings are created and adjusting the wording about indemnification, county officials said.

At an Oct. 5 meeting, Park County Commissioner Dossie Overfield also said the scope of the work was scaled back to cut down on costs while still getting the answers library officials are looking for.

Park County Library Board Chair Pat Stuart said she feels “really good” about how the contract ended up. “We’re quite happy with what we have here,” she told commissioners.

In an interview, Stuart said her primary concern is raising the funding to make the improvements drawn up by GSG — and she said those efforts need to begin soon. (The Friends of the Powell Library is hosting a fundraiser for the project this weekend. See related story on Page 3.)

Stuart hopes the project can receive funding from a temporary, 1% specific purpose sales tax, which could be approved by Park County voters in 2022. However, it will be up to commissioners and council members across the county to propose such a tax; the current design work is being funded with private dollars.

Stuart is also hoping that “somebody would keep us in mind when it comes to sharing out COVID money.” She said it feels like “just about everybody in the world is getting something” and believes the Powell Library should be on the list.

GSG is being asked to design the Powell Library improvements in two phases: the first to renovate the facility and maximize the amount of usable space and the second to expand to the north into the parking lot.

Ideally, Stuart said, both phases will be done at the same time, saving money and potentially avoiding a closure of the library while the work is underway. But that will be contingent on how many dollars are raised and how quickly.

Library director Horner said she sees the project as an achievable goal, even if it must be done in stages.

“I think there’s enough interest and … just hitting the ground with fundraising, I think we would totally be able to raise the funds to make it happen,” she said.

Horner added that, while library leaders would like to have a bigger facility, “the actual size of the library isn’t that bad.” The Powell Library contains around 12,450 square feet, but only about 9,250 of that is currently usable. Knocking down some walls and other changes could “really transform that whole space,” Horner said, adding, “I think it could be an amazing library.”

GSG plans to have its initial report completed by Nov. 12.

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