NEW PALESTINE — Hancock County Public Library soon could be accepting bids for the construction of the much-anticipated new building for its Sugar Creek Branch in New Palestine.
The approval of building permits is expected within the next few weeks, after which bids are anticipated, officials said. The total project cost is expected not to exceed $5 million.
The Hancock County Public Library board of directors on Tuesday approved additional appropriations of up to $5 million in preparation for the construction of the new branch. The funding will come from the sale of bonds and will not raise taxes for residents in the library’s service area, said Dave Gray, library director.
The new library is planned to be about 15,000 square feet, more than double the size of the existing building at 5087 U.S. 52. The new library will be built on 5 acres in the 5800 block of U.S. 52, less than a mile west of the current location, a former drugstore building.
The library bought the land from Justus Property Management for $700,000 from the library system’s rainy day fund.
The site is adjacent to the Woodland Terrace senior living facility, owned by Justus.
Plans call for the installation of sidewalks to enable Woodland Terrace residents and people living at the nearby senior cottages to walk to and from the library, town officials said.
Staff members long have said the Sugar Creek branch of the library is cramped and doesn’t allow enough programming space.
Construction on the new space is expected to start in late summer, Gray said.
The project is moving ahead years before originally planned, thanks to a $3.5 million gift from the estate of Ralph and Grace Rea the library received about a year ago. Had the library not received the gift from the Rea trust, the new branch would have been built in 2020-21 at the earliest, Gray said.
Staff members are looking forward to moving into the new facility, Sugar Creek branch manager Jeanette Sherfield said, and residents are excited about the project.
“We get questions almost daily from the community, wondering when construction is going to start,” Sherfield said.
She said she’s looking forward to providing the community more quiet study rooms and a bigger community room, which will enable expanded programming.
While employees and visitors make do with the current facility, it’s time for more space to meet the demands of the growing community, library leaders said.
The new building will have a large children’s area, a designated teen section, more study and lounging areas, and large meeting and youth programming rooms.
In addition to adult sections and a circulation desk, plans call for an exterior programming section as well as a patio seating area, offices, storage space and an employee break room.
The new design will meet a trend of allowing patrons more seating options, Sherfield said.
The library, which has eight staff members, does not anticipate a need for more workers.
New Palestine building inspector Jim Robinson and other town officials are reviewing final building plans.
Robinson said the town is eager for the new building to be constructed.
“We were all thinking this project was a few years out, but it will be nice to have it now,” Robinson said.