• 73°

Old school is ‘structurally sound’

The former Dillwyn Primary School building at the intersection of U.S. Route 15 and Route 20 just south of Dillwyn is “structurally sound” to house a public library for Buckingham County.

Morgan Dunnavant

“The building has been proven structurally sound for the proposed renovation and with very little remedial work that would need to be done to put it in compliance with the building codes for the renovations we’re proposing,” said District Four Supervisor Morgan Dunnavant during the board of supervisors’ August meeting, “and the preliminary layout that we’ve got looks like it’s going to fit the criteria that was submitted by the library itself to serve their purpose.”

Dunnavant called the agenda item, noted as “Update repurposing Dillwyn School Study,” as “good news to report.”

Supervisors unanimously voted last December to authorize contract negotiations with Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates (CRA) architects, of Charlottesville, to determine if the former school building can be renovated to house a new public library.

Library supporters have lobbied for a new building rather than renovating an old one.

According to a memorandum from Assistant County Administrator and Finance Director Karl Carter, the contract price for the firm’s services is $23,095.

Last July, supervisors unanimously voted to issue the request for proposals to study the building.

During the August meeting, Dunnavant said shortly “we’ll have a couple more work sessions with the architect and engineer and be ready to get some feedback from the library staff themselves on it shortly … We’re looking forward to that date.”

Don Matthews

“Actually the building passed with flying colors as far as that’s concerned — structural and sheer weight and all that stuff — (and) the roof, it’s in excellent condition and I’m really excited about the whole scenario,” said District Three Supervisor Don Matthews, who serves on the committee with Dunnavant looking at the proposals. “It’s the best lot in the county as far as commercial use situation. It’s easy to get to, easily located and the building has met all the criteria that I thought it would meet. I’m just excited to push forward, and I hope the library people are excited as I am.”

During the meeting, no conceptual plans or architectural renderings were presented.

CRA was contracted to determine if it’s feasible to renovate the old school to house a library facility of about 10,000 square feet and examine engineering and architectural aspects of the building, constructed in 1954.

Last summer’s action by supervisors came after 11 people spoke in support of the construction of a new library rather than using the vacant school building.

“Emphasis should be paid to the structural integrity of the building, the need, if any, for the abatement of asbestos and a cost estimate without doing an actual design to modify the former school to house a library…” District One Supervisor R.C. “Bobby” Jones stipulated in a motion in July.

“If the library group will embrace this proposal it really seems like it’s going to turn into a reality at this stage. It really seems that way,” Dunnavant said during the August meeting, calling the news “very promising.”

“We have a third phase that has to be addressed,” Matthews noted of the process.

He said if library leaders “embrace” the proposal, “then we’ll come back to this board collectively and ask to proceed further. If the library contingency is not interested in the offering we’ve provided them, then I guess we’ll have to drop back and punt.”

Rebecca S. Carter

County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter said “there will be a point where the committee can demonstrate to you all what the building could look like as a library with the renovations.”

“This is not finalized yet, but it looks pretty promising,” Dunnavant said. “…The big thing is if the library committee or however you want to put it will embrace it … If they’ll embrace it and take ownership of it, it’ll work for all of us.”

Carter said during the committee meetings focusing on the study, Matthews and Dunnavant “have tried to make sure that the library’s needs are being met as close as possible for space. So it’s like they’re trying to work with this to try to accommodate what they asked for.”

Last July, Library Liaison Committee member H. Spencer Adams listed reasons why the supervisor-appointed committee thought that the old school would not be suitable for the new library.

Jones then said that if the building is structurally sound, part of it could serve as a community center and house school offices and school athletic offices.

“There’s just multiple things (that) can be housed in there if it is suitable structurally,” he said.

In October 2015, supervisors unanimously voted to designate 3.5 acres of county-owned property on Wingo Road adjacent to the Buckingham Recycling Center just off of U.S. Route 15 near Dillwyn for the proposed new library. The action also stipulated that the county’s library liaison committee could move forward with the preparation of “necessary construction documents” for a building that the county would own and lease to the library.

“I don’t think anybody on the board is against the library. I think we want to move forward with it as frugally as possible,” Dunnavant said during a previous meeting.

Last July, Adams said the former school was more than 24,000-square-feet, which was more than two times the size of what’s needed for a new library. He said the structure corridor of the old school would have to be completely modified for the building to work as a library. He also said that the classroom design of the building “does not translate into the open needs of a library.”

He noted that all systems in the building would need to either be replaced or removed to make it work as a library.

“The building is not ADA compliant. Multiple bathrooms would have to be added to allow for after-hours access to public meeting rooms,” he said.

Adams noted there was asbestos and lead paint in the building “that would have to be dealt with in any renovation.”

Last October, Adams, on behalf of the committee, presented plans to build a new $2 million 9,580-square-foot library — a redesign of the original proposal.

“Based on average construction cost data, preliminary analysis and the redesign of the library building, this project could be completed for an estimated $1.8 to $2 million,” a liaison committee report stated.

Several other committee recommendations to the original plans included removal and changes to numerous building features, including elimination of a cupola, replacing an open span vaulted ceiling with a simpler flat one and removal of certain corners of the building and several windows, Adams said.

Last fall, reporting on the site plan at the Wingo Road location, Adams said that the facility “fits very well into this site … That worked out real well as far as the piece of land that’s there … The test results revealed a soil structure with overall low shrink-swell potential that can hold a structure supported on a shallow, convention footing foundation system. Neither groundwater nor the existent soil type is expected to adversely impact foundation/utility construction.”