RICHMOND — It may be a bit overdue, but after years of residents wrangling over construction proposals ranging from humble to grandiose, its predecessor being torn down because of mold and structural issues, and the lack of an Internet connection delaying its opening, the new Umberhine Public Library is almost ready for residents to check it out.

The library is due for a grand opening celebration Aug. 9. It could open before then — as soon as Tuesday — but only if the library’s connection to the Internet is hooked up by then. Officials had planned to be open by Richmond Days, which came and went last weekend, but have delayed the opening for the Internet connection to be ready and because all the furniture for the new library wasn’t ready.

Librarian Donna McCluskey said Fairpoint Communications workers, following some delays, could have the library ready to open by Tuesday, or at least by the Aug. 9 grand opening.

The Saturday grand opening will take place from 9 a.m. to noon and include a ribbon-cutting and other activities.

Residents have been so anxious for it to open, anytime there’s someone inside the building working, they’re likely to be interrupted by passersby stopping to inquire when the new building will open, according to Bonnie Dushin, a library trustee. She thinks folks will like what they see.

“I’m very proud, and Richmond should be proud, to have built a library like this,” Dushin said. “It’s beautiful and efficient.”

It was also, trustee Judy deBray noted, a long time coming.

The previous library building, on the same spot at 86 Main St., was torn down in 2011 because mold, a leaky roof, and the lack of a functioning furnace made it uninhabitable. The library operated out of leased space at 164 Main St. from then until closing July 18 so the books and other items there could be moved to the newly built library.

But the debate over a new library pre-dates the demolition of the old one by many years.

At the 2008 Town Meeting, residents voted to borrow $300,000 to help fund construction of a new library, but only if library supporters were able to raise an additional $700,000 to pay for what was, at the time, a proposed new $1.3 million library. That goal was never met, so the town didn’t borrow the money, and that proposed library was never built.

In 2010 the town took possession of the library from the nonprofit group that had owned it for many years, and also, eventually, got about $250,000 from that group, money which came from grants or donations made to build a new library.

Plans for a new public library largely languished until resident Steve Musica proposed last year that the town could build a new library for less than the approximately $250,000 in non-taxpayer-provided funds which had been contributed for that purpose. Musica and others worked with volunteers, the town’s public works crew which did site work, and local contractors who, together this construction season, built the library for about that $250,000 figure.

If Musica hadn’t restarted it, deBray said the library project could have floundered for years.

Selectman Clarence Cummins said the new, 3,000-square-foot library would have been a lot more expensive were it not for the contributed and discounted work on the project.

That work included a wide, semi-circular circulation desk in the center of the building and a cupola on the roof built and donated by Selectman Gary Poulin, owner of GLP Builders, who said it was something his wife, Marjorie, wanted him to do.

McCluskey estimated the circulation desk alone could have cost more than $8,000 if they’d had to buy one.

Poulin said he wasn’t sure how many hours he and his crew put into the work, other than “way more than planned,” and noted last week he still had some of it to finish up.

“Gary put a lot of love into it,” McClusky, who has worked at the library for 28 years, said of the curved wooden desk.

Cummins said all the contractors on the project were local.

The town’s public works crew and volunteers recently worked together to move the books and other items from the leased library to the new building.

The building is heated by radiant floor heat. It is built on a slab. Cummins said officials initially considered building it with a full basement, which could have provided more storage space, but determined they couldn’t afford that option.

The main room of the library has a children’s area in one back corner and a young adult area in the other.

Just inside the entrance is a community room with tables and chairs where people can have meetings. The entrance was built so the library can be locked while the community room and bathrooms can remain open during non-library hours.

The library’s hours will remain the same as they are now: 21 hours a week made up of Tuesday and Thursday 2 to 8 p.m., Wednesday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to noon.

The black, gold-lettered sign from the old library will be hung on a wall inside the new library.

A garden and stone patio will be installed behind the building in what is now a grass-covered area.

McClusky said she loves the new library, though she wishes it had a larger children’s room. She said the building is airy and open and has much more space in between the shelves of books than either the leased space or the previous library building.

Library and town officials said the library remaining at 86 Main St. near both school properties and in the center of town was important for many residents.

Musica said numerous people and businesses contributed to the project.

“I just planted the seed, and the town and all the volunteers and contractors stepped in and got the thing done,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting to see the lot where the old library was occupied again.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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