AUGUSTA — The city’s Planning Board approved an $11 million renovation and expansion of Lithgow Public Library on Tuesday night, clearing the project for its target start date in May.

The vote was a formality. In June 2014, Augusta residents approved a proposal to borrow $8 million to nearly triple the Winthrop Street building’s original size, and a contractor has been picked to do the work.

The board approved the project unanimously after the city staff found few problems in its application, saying a traffic study wouldn’t be necessary and that the building would conform with the neighborhood.

“It’s another milestone on our way — an important one, to be sure,” said Elizabeth Pohl, the library’s director. “There are several more ahead before we get there.”

Construction is scheduled to start in early May and is expected to last roughly 18 months. The building’s 119-year-old front section will be renovated, and its 1979 addition will be demolished and replaced.

The library will remain open until April 13, but the Lithgow staff plans to move out two days later to its temporary home at the Ballard Center on East Chestnut Street, which should open in May.

The city expects to pay $315,000 to use space for 18 months at the Ballard Center. The move there and back should cost $62,000. J.F. Scott Construction, of Winthrop, will supervise the job, and Pohl said they’re identifying subcontractors now.

When the project is complete, the library will nearly triple in size, adding an accessible elevator and electric door and adding a cafe on the main floor. A parking lot behind the library will expand from 11 spots now to 39 spots when the project is complete.

The Friends of Lithgow Library, the nonprofit fundraising group supporting the building, has pledged to raise $3 million privately to match the city’s share, which is being funded with short-term money saved by refinancing public employee pension debt and isn’t expected to increase property taxes.

The project has been a long time coming in Augusta. Needs at the library have been recognized for decades, and in 2007, city voters shot down a similar plan to overhaul the building, which had 129,000 visitors in 2010 and circulated more than 167,000 items.

“Let’s go,” said Jan Rollins, the former president of the Friends of Lithgow Library, to the board before the vote. “We’ve been waiting for this for so long.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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