Halifax councillors are recommending in favour of another budget increase for the renovation of the Keshen Goodman Library in Clayton Park.

The library originally opened in 2001, and it now sees 400,000 visitors annually. The library “provides critical social infrastructure in the rapidly expanding Clayton Park area,” according to project manager Maribeth McCarvill.

“The branch is 20% of the size of the Halifax Central Library but circulates 85% of its material volume,” McCarvill wrote in a report to council’s Audit and Finance Standing Committee.

The municipality is renovating the library to enhance the services provided there, improve accessibility, and increase the efficiency of the building. The work is already underway.

Council’s Audit and Finance Standing Committee met Wednesday. It voted to recommend council approve about $1.2 million in extra budget for the project.

Reno cost has climbed before

HRM originally budgeted about $4.9 million for the renovation. The lowest bid, from Avondale Construction, was about $7.2 million. Council approved a $2.8-million increase to the budget when it awarded the contract to Avondale last year. That included an extra 6% contingency.

“The increase at that time was anticipated to be the result of supply chain issues, rapidly rising inflation and complexities due to project phasing to ensure continuous operations,” McCarvill wrote.

Now, there are more “complexities.”

“Challenges that have arisen during the construction phase include unforeseen existing conditions not noted on the as-built drawings, supply chain issues for materials and equipment, labour shortages, and ongoing alterations to the branch to maintain occupancy and functionality throughout project phasing,” McCarvill wrote.

“Additional design services are required to provide essential design and construction administration services that keep the project on schedule while also minimizing disruption of library services. The renovation is anticipated to be completed in winter 2024.”

The extra money will also pay for furniture, shelving, and security expenses that weren’t previously budgeted.

The total estimated cost of the project is now $7,440,310 — up 53% from the original $4,871,244 estimate.

The extra money will come from the budget for another planned renovation, the Halifax North Memorial Public Library.

Community ‘very excited,’ says councillor

Coun. Iona Stoddard, who represents the Timberlea-Beechville-Clayton Park-Wedgewood district, asked her colleagues to support the project on Wednesday.

Renders have been posted as the final results and the community and the surrounding areas are very excited,” Stoddard said.

An architectural rendering shows people in a library. Some are on laptops or phones while others browse the shelves.
A rendering showing the planned renovations to the inside of the Keshen Goodman Library. Credit: Halifax Public Libraries/Fathom

Mayor Mike Savage talked about the importance of the library.

“Among the many things it does is it welcomes people to the community, and there is no more multicultural community in Nova Scotia, in Canada than the one that Councillor Stoddard was talking about and represents,” he said.

Savage asked about the funding for the increase coming from the Halifax North Memorial Public Library budget.

Philip Dugandzic is HRM’s director of facility design and construction. He told the committee there’s money available from that project because it’s a “work in progress.” There’s public consultation and federal funding applications happening this year.

“Even if we got to go ahead and the [funding] application was approved, we would not be able to spend all of the capital that we already have approved in this fiscal if we wanted to get that design work started,” Dugandzic said.

“So, people who recognize the importance of how to exploit the public library don’t need to worry that money is coming out that would otherwise be being spent?” Savage asked.

“That’s correct,” Dugandzic said.

The funding increase heads to council for a final vote.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Does anyone else find the fact that they are taking money from an urban library, badly in need of repairs, in an under resourced area that serves a predominately racialized population to provide upgrades to an over-budget suburban resource a tiny bit suspicious? Can someone explain to me how this isn’t going to end up with North Memorial getting the short end of the stick? I’d like to believe that’s not what’s going on here, but that’s definitely how it looks.

      1. I don’t know enough about the budgeting process to comment on that, but I’ll note that Clayton Park is probably the most racially diverse neighbourhood of HRM.

    1. Hard to say, but it sounds like the money couldn’t be spent for the North End Library in this budget year? As long as the funds are there when it’s needed they shouldn’t get the short end of the stick.
      CP is a suburb?