AUGUSTA — City councilors meet Thursday to consider hiring an architect already involved in the design of the Lithgow Library renovation and expansion at a cost of up to $800,000.

The work, if approved by councilors, would be awarded to Johnson Roberts Associates, the firm recommended by City Manager William Bridgeo and a library construction advisory committee without going through a competitive bid process.

Bridgeo said ordinances allow the city to enter into contracts for professional services, such as those provided by lawyers, accountants, engineers and architects, without going through a competitive bid process, as would be required for many other large expenditures of city funds.

Architect Stewart Roberts, a principal of Massachusetts-based Johnson Roberts Associates, has been involved in planning for the Lithgow project since at least 2006, when he was selected over six other architects competing for the work to update Lithgow renovation plans. In 2006, a city committee met extensively with four finalists before they selected Roberts.

Bridgeo said that previous vetting and Roberts’ involvement in the Lithgow project since then were factors in his recommendation to hire him.

“Between the fact there was a wide open search process for the first phases of this project, and that we’ve had a very, very satisfactory working relationship with Stewart Roberts, and that the fee proposal they’ve given me is reasonable and in line with what other public entities pay for these services, I’m recommending we go forward,” Bridgeo said.

Bridgeo said Roberts has extensive experience designing new and renovated libraries, and city and library officials have been very happy with his work on Lithgow so far.

The proposal for councilors is to authorize Bridgeo to contract with the architectural firm for up to $798,000.

Bridgeo said he checked with other municipal leaders and the state Bureau of General Services and determined the firm’s fees are in line with what other municipalities have paid for similar projects and slightly less than what state guidelines would allow an architect to be paid for such a project.

Bridgeo briefed councilors on the proposal at their meeting last week.

“It is very sound. It meets all the quality standards we were looking for,” Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis, a member of the library building committee, said at last week’s meeting. “They come very highly recommended. And it’s going to get us off the dime. I think we need to do this. And the sooner the better. It has already been three months since the referendum.”

City voters in June agreed to allow the city to borrow up to $8 million for the project, which is estimated to cost up to $11.7 million. The rest of the money is being raised through donations in a campaign spearheaded by the private Friends of Lithgow Library.

Earlier this year, Roberts provided an updated design for the project, which would nearly triple the size of the city’s 120-year-old public library.

The contract would include construction document and drawing preparation, coordinating consultants and subcontractors, reviewing the bidding process and overall administration of the construction project, which is expected to last nearly two years.

Of the approximately $800,000 fee, about $500,000 would go to Roberts’ firm and about $300,000 would go to other consultants working on the project, according to his fee proposal.

Library construction could start next spring.

Councilors meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers to consider entering into a contract with the architect. Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Consider a final vote on proposed changes to the city’s mineral extraction and blasting ordinances, proposed in part to address residents’ concerns about dust coming from a West River Road pit;

• hold a public hearing on a proposed Tax Increment Financing district to help NRF Distributors expand its Augusta facilities;

• consider authorizing a beer tent at the city’s Bond Brook Recreation Area for Augusta Trails’ Tread Fest, Oct. 19;

• consider appropriating funds for numerous capital improvements;

• and meet in closed-door session to discuss pending litigation.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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