N.J. Libraries to Get State Funds to Replace Aging Infrastructure

Thu November 12, 2020 - Northeast Edition
CentralJersey.com




New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy delivered a list of proposed projects for the first round of funding from the Library Construction Bond Act (LCBA) to the Legislature on Nov. 5.

The LCBA authorized $125 million in state bonds to fund critical improvements to public libraries in New Jersey. The bond issuance was approved by voters in November 2017 and all applicants were required to identify a 50 percent match to fund their proposed projects, according to information provided by the governor's office.

Thirty-eight highly rated projects from 16 counties across the state were recommended to the Legislature to receive funding from the act.

Currently, $87.5 million is available to be distributed among these projects during this first round. More than 129 applications were reviewed by a committee made up of experts from across relevant state agencies, including the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Community Affairs, the New Jersey Treasury, and the New Jersey Historical Commission, among others.

The Monroe Public Library is on the list to potentially receive state funding for expansion and associated renovations. The city is in southern Middlesex County, south of New Brunswick.

"Monroe was awarded $248,640," said Stacey Kennedy, Monroe Townships public information officer. "It is a matching program so the township will match the funds."

Leah Wagner, director of the library, said the funds will go toward to replace an aging HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) unit, boiler and a fire alarm panel.

"All are over 20 years old and need replacing," she said. "Not very glamorous, but very necessary for the operation of the library."

Murphy said, in a statement, "From major building renovations to vital technology upgrades, this bond program will transform our libraries to better serve and be more accessible to their local communities. I want to thank the state librarian [Mary Chute] and President [Dr. Merodie A.] Hancock at Thomas Edison State University, as well as our partner agencies, on their collaborative work toward this effort."

As required by statute, the state librarian, in consultation with the president of the university, is responsible for the administration and oversight of the LCBA, according to the statement. The New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority will be helping the state librarian to ensure compliance and the post-issuance work related to this bond.

The proposed project list is currently pending review with the Legislature. Once approved, appropriated funding will be granted to these projects.

"New Jersey libraries continue to respond to the needs of our communities and are working tirelessly to bridge the digital divide and keep residents connected to many critical services which have become all the more essential in recent months," said Chute. "We are eager to see local libraries break ground on these much-needed projects, which will make library facilities safer, more efficient, and more accessible for all people."