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HISTORY OF ACTIVITIES TO PROVIDE A LIBRARY FOR PORTSMOUTH
1986 -- 2004
1986 City negotiates with Foundation for Seacoast Heath to acquire former Hospital Hill as a site for City Hall, Police, and Library. Architects Whitman and Howard submit plans calling for a library as part of the Municipal Complex.

1986 Library Trustees present details of library space problems to City Council at budget session. Heavy media coverage showing crowded conditions at library.

1987 The city begins moving municipal offices and then Police to the "Hill".

1987 Library Trustees meet in work session with the City Council to present pressing need for more space to meet the needs of residents.

1988 May. Library Trustees hire Cohen Associates to conduct a study of library space needs and recommend short-term actions to deal with space problems. Cohen Associates find that the library is in a no growth position and can not expand on current site to meet the demand.

1988 September 26th. Library Trustees meet with City Council. Trustees review various steps that have been taken to deal with space problems and request a timeline for library move to City Hill.

1988 December 19th. City Council votes to accept City Manager's Report on the library. His schedule called for library construction to begin in 1991.

1988 Closing of Pease results in a hiatus of action toward building a library.

1989 Library conducts another of its reorganizations in an attempt to deal with the crowded situation and decides reluctantly to store over 3,500 books in the 1895 Building.

1990 City Master Plan calls for moving library to City Hill Complex.

1992 January. Library Trustees form a committee, including members of the Planning Board, to hire a library building expert to conduct a needs assessment, a site selection survey and produce a library building program. Cohen Associates chosen.

1993 August. Cohen Associates completes the building program. As part of the process, Cohen Associates examined several sites and concluded that "City Hill" is the best site. The building program spells out, in detail, the library's 20 year needs. It calls for a 58,000 square foot library.

The site selection criteria included:
  1. Be able to accommodate the building program
  2. Be available (either for sale at a reasonable price or, preferably, already owned by the City)
  3. Be three to five acres
  4. Provide for on site parking
  5. Be capable of future expansion
  6. Be located in an area accessible to the whole community
  7. Be near the heart of the City/not isolated on its periphery
1993 October 18th. The City Council votes to have the Mayor appoint a New Library Building Study Committee to select a consulting firm to determine the feasibility of building the library on "Hospital Hill".

1993 November 22nd. The City Council holds work session on the library and then during the regular meeting votes to appropriate $15,000 to fund an engineering study necessary for the committee to determine if the library could be built on the Municipal Complex site. The Library Trustees appropriate an additional $5,000 making a total of $20,000 available to complete this study.

1994 March. New Library Building Study Committee hires Tappe Associates to conduct study to determine suitability of City Hill for a library.

1994 May 16th. Tappe Associates makes a preliminary report to City Council outlining their findings to date as to suitability of Municipal Complex for a library.

1994 May 22nd. The Portsmouth Herald editorial supports the move to the "Hill" saying, "City and Library officials are smart to have researched a design for a new location on HOSPITAL HILL and to have included $8 million in the City's Capital Improvement Budget for 1996. They would be wise to approve the bonding to give the library room to grow and to make space for all the pictures and conversations, all the patrons and books that make Portsmouth rich."

1994 July 19th. Chair of New Building Committee made a presentation to Portsmouth Advocates.

1994 August 18th. Joint session of Historic District Commission and Planning Board to review and comment on Tappe Report.

1994 October 27th. Public hearing at City Hall re: Tappe Report.

1994 December 22nd. New Building Committee report to Portsmouth Rotary.

1995 February 28th. New Library Building Study Committee presents Tappe's Final Report to City Council at Public Session. Tappe offers two potential scenarios for a library at City Hill. One scenario is totally new construction.

1995 September 11th. Public hearing before City Council re: expending $800,000 for engineering plans, architectural drawings and construction oversight for a library at City Hill Complex.

1995 October 16th. City Council votes 8-0 to expend $600,000 to hire an architect to design a library at Municipal Hill Complex.

1995 December 7th. New Library Building Committee hold Public Meeting at library for public input re: Tappe's two scenarios for a library.
  1. Entirely new construction at City Hill, or
  2. Preserving part of the 1895 Building.
1996 January 29th. City Council holds a public hearing re: siting of new library on City Hill.

1996 February 5th. City Council votes to include feasibility of siting a library at Bridge Street as part of the library design process.

1996 March 25th. City Council hold work session with New Building Committee to review RFP for design.

1996 April and May. New Building Committee issues RFP and begins selection of an architect. 1996 August. Graham Gund hired to complete Phase I (Study of Bridge Street site) of RFP to design a library.

1996 September 23rd. Gund issues a Progress Report including a review and update of Cohen Building Program by Patience Jackson, library building consultant. Council votes to suspend work on Phase I and move forward with Phase II, designing a library at Municipal Hill Complex.

1996 November 7th. Planning Board and Historic District Commission hold joint session to review options for siting a library at Municipal Hill and issue a report to City Council. Planning Board recommended that the 1895 Building be incorporated into the construction of a new library.

1996 December 11th. New Building Committee votes "to recommend that the City Council establish as municipal policy that the new library design should incorporate as much of the 1895 Building as practical."

1996 December 16th. City Council holds public hearing regarding disposition of the 1895 Building. Council voted 7-2 "…the contract for design of the new Municipal Library should be based upon the concept that a portion of the original 1895 Building be reused in designing the new Library."

1997 January 6th. Council voted 7-2 to refer proposal from Dan Hughes for a design/build of the library to New Building Committee and a report back to City Council before any funds are expended.

1997 February 13th. New Building Committee, after examining Dan Hughes' proposal and researching design/build as a method of designing and constructing libraries, voted "to recommend to the City Council that we do not engage in design/build and that we continue with the course we have undertaken and negotiate a contract with Gund."

1997 February 24th. City Council voted 6-3 "to retain a suitable architect for the preparation of final engineering and design plans for bidding the construction of a new library at the Municipal Complex in a manner consistent with prior votes of the Council … cost…should not exceed seven million dollars."
  • Council also voted 5-4 "to approve $25,000 from Contingency Fund for a design by Mr. Hughes."
  • Council voted to hold a Public Hearing on March 24 regarding placing a non-binding referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot: "Should the City of Portsmouth construct a new library?"
1997 March 5th. New Building Committee votes to work with both Hughes and Gund (given Council votes of Feb. 24, 1997) to develop preliminary plans for a library at Municipal Complex.

1997 March. Library Building Program reworked, with building consultant Nolan Lushington, to reduce the size of building to approximately 45,000 sq. ft.

1997 March 24th. City Council votes 5-4 against a non-binding referendum "Should the City of Portsmouth construct a new library."

1997 April 14th. Planning Board presents Capital Improvement Plan to Council and recommends library be built at Municipal Complex.

1997 July 28th. Hughes and Gund present their proposals to New Building Committee.

1997 August 20th. Library Trustees vote "to endorse the proposal of Graham Gund Architects for the new Portsmouth Public Library."

1997 August 26th. New Library Building Committee votes "to recommend that Graham Gund be hired to develop plans for the library using the conventional design/bid/build method."

1997 September 2nd. Work session held with City Council and New Library Building Committee to discuss Hughes and Gund proposals.

1997 October 6th. City Council votes 6-3 "that the City Manager be directed to retain Graham Gund Associates, for the preparation of final engineering and design plans for bidding the construction of a new library at the Municipal Complex in a manner consistent with prior votes of the City Council."

1997 November. New City Council elected.

1999 February. Chair of New Library Building Committee, John O'Leary, asks Mayor Sirrell for a work session with City Council. Work session is set for September 20th.

1999 April 9th. Mayor Sirrell revamps NLBC. Expands its membership and asks for all ideas - new and old - to be considered.

1999 April. Mayor Sirrell appoints an expanded New Library Building Committee. Members are: John Bohenko, Raimond Bowles, Peter Bresciano, Lenore Bronson, Denise Doleac, Suzanne Regina Ford, John Grossman, Todd Hanson, Sharon Hart, Kate Leith, Paul McEachern, Dr. Claudia Morner, Stephen Mowry, John O'Leary, George Robinson, Cary Rothenburger, and Carvel Tefft.

1999 May 6th. Meeting of New Library Building Committee (NLBC). John O'Leary elected Chair of expanded NLBC and states that all issues pertaining to a new library would be put on the table.

1999 May 23rd. NLBC establishes a Site Criteria Task Group to compile a comprehensive list of potential library sites, including those previously examined, and to create a site selection matrix for site analysis and comparisons.

1999 May 26th. NLBC tours the 1895 Building on City Hill Complex.

1999 June 9th. NLBC meets and discusses information gathered by Site Selection Task Group. NLBC examines and discusses the following sites:
  1. 1895 Building
  2. Middle School/JFK site
  3. Parrott Ave. parking lot
  4. Langdon Park
  5. Little Harbor School area
  6. Clough Field
  7. Heliport area at City Hill Complex
  8. Parade Mall in Northern Tier
  9. Portsmouth Herald Building.
NLBC moves to request City Staff's assistance in more in-depth study.

1999 June 23rd. NLBC meeting. City Manager approves expenditure of money to conduct site analyses of NLBC's recommended sites. NLBC emphasizes that no sites are closed.

1999 July 7th. NLBC meets and approves the plans to conduct an informational Question and Answer series about the library project. The Questions from the public and answers to appear in Herald and Fosters and City's web site.

1999 July 21st. NLBC meets and hears reports about suitability of several sites for a library.

1999 July and August. NLBC conducts visits of newly built libraries in area.

1999 August 11th. NLBC meeting. Reports from committee on library visits.

1999 August 16th. City Council approves a non-binding referendum to be placed on city election ballot for Nov. 2, 1999 "Do you believe the City of Portsmouth should build a new public library?"

1999 August 25th. NLBC meeting. Discussed criteria to be used in examining sites.

1999 September 20th. NLBC has a work session with City Council. NLBC gives an overview of its work examining sites against established criteria; examines estimated construction and operational costs of various library sites and layouts, including rehabbing 1895 Building. Council agrees that NLBC should continue moving forward with the process.

1999 October 6th. NLBC meeting. Discussion of potential sites pro and con.

1999 November 2nd. At City election, voters pass the non-binding resolution "Do you believe the City of Portsmouth should build a new public library?" 2543 yes, 1789 no.

1999 November 14th. City signs a seven-month contract to lease the Spinnaker Point facility for use as City's adult recreation facility.

2000 January. Steve McHenry, architect, is hired to work with NLBC Site Review Subcommittee and City Staff to review and analyze the fourteen potential sites now identified for a library building.

2000 March 15th. McHenry and NLBC meet to discuss 14 potential sites and compare them using site selection criteria. NLBC decides to focus search on five starred sites from list below:
  1. Kearsarge Way
  2. North Mill Pond-behind cemetery on Maplewood
  3. JFK Center at Parrott Ave.
  4. * Wentworth School
  5. * Parrott Ave. Parking Lot
  6. * South Playground-near tennis courts
  7. * 1895 Building and Heliport
  8. Clough Field on South St.
  9. Spinney Road, North- near Middle Road
  10. * Spinney Road, South-near water tower
  11. Jones Ave.-near old City landfill
  12. Albacore Park
  13. Cate St.-near railroad overpass
  14. Bridge St parking Lot
2000 March 23rd. NLBC meets and, after ranking all sites studied, recommends that City Staff conduct soil test borings and further study on 3 sites:
  1. Wentworth School
  2. South Playground-near tennis courts
  3. Parrott Ave. parking lot.
2000 May 24th. NLBC meeting. City Staff present findings from the several sites studied.

2000 June 8th. NLBC and City Council hold work session to present findings on sites studied. Mayor announces that she has received a petition with 249 signatures opposing South Playground/Tennis Court site. After hearing findings and question and answer session, no vote is taken.

2000 October 5th. NLBC meets to discuss reexamining the JFK site, as library location, in light of City's possible move of adult recreation facility from JFK to Spinnaker Point. Initial studies will examine soil conditions, placement of a 20,000-sq. ft. footprint on site, and effect on parking and traffic in area with a library building added. Vote: "JFK site would move to top of list based on successful negotiations with the Spinnaker Point Association."" All NLBC present vote in favor.

2001 June 18th. City Council approves a thirty-year lease to use Spinnaker Point field house for the City's adult recreation facility.

2001 July 18th. NLBC votes to: "Reaffirm the JFK site as the New Library Building Committee's preferred site." NLBC vote is 10 in favor and 1 opposed. NLBC asks that City Manager Bohenko communicate their vote to City Council.

2001 August 6th. City Council votes to "commence a conceptual design for a library at the JFK site, and have a complete traffic study done regarding the placement of the library at that location and then proceed with the regulatory process."

2001 August 20th. City Council votes to appoint Assistant Mayor Hanson and Councilors Grasso and Hynes to NLBC.

2001 September 12th. City Staff including City Engineer, Dave Allen, and Parking and Traffic Consultant, John Burke, meet with NLBC to review the process and scope of work to be followed in studying the JFK site.

2001 December. City staff begins process for RFQ (Request for Qualifications) to select an architectural team for new library.

2001 December 19th. City Staff and Marty Kennedy from VHB Consultants present the findings of studies conducted over last several months, involving parking, traffic, and soil conditions at the JFK site. A draft timetable showing approximate times needed for design and construction of a library is also presented. All studies found that a library with a 20,000-sq. ft. footprint was suitable for the site.

2002 January 8th. The City's Technical Advisory Committee reviews the findings on traffic, parking and soil conditions and votes unanimously to recommend the site as a feasible building site for the library.

2002 January 14th. City Council passes first reading of a Bond Issue authorizing up to seven million dollars for the construction of a new public library. Vote is 8-1.

2002 January 24th. Planning Board conducts public hearing for the purpose of submitting an advisory recommendation to the City Council to determine the suitability of the JFK site for the location of a new library. Planning Board votes 8 to 0 to recommend approval of site with qualifications that neighbors' concerns with traffic, parking, water problems (drainage) and, erosion of green space be addressed.

2002 February 4th. City Council holds a public hearing on the resolution authorizing a bond issue up to $7,000,000 for the construction of a new public library. On a roll call vote Council votes 7 to 2 in favor of the resolution.

2002 April 23rd. Five architectural firms are selected from a total of 22 to receive an RFP (Request for Proposal) and be interviewed by NLBC.

2002 May 1st. NLBC meets to discuss upcoming interviews of five architectural firms. NLBC votes to "Reaffirm the previous votes that the JFK site is the NLBC's top choice for a new library building." Passed, one nay vote.

2002 May 22nd. NLBC conducts interviews of five architectural firms selected through the RFQ process.

2002 May 23rd. NLBC votes to select Amsler, Woodhouse and MacLean to design the new library.

2002 June 3rd City Council votes to authorize City Manager to execute an agreement with the architect selected by NLBC to design a library at the former JFK site, subject land-use reviews.

2002 July 24th. NLBC meets and Amsler presents some conceptual designs for a new library.

2002 September 11th. NLBC meets with Tom Amsler and Gail Woodhouse who present revisions of design and report on progress to date and tasks ahead.

2002 September 25th. NLBC solicits public comment about design and meet to hear public reactions to the schematic plans that were on the City's web site and on display at the library.

2002 October 23rd. NLBC meets to discuss possible revisions to schematics based on public input. Also, receive update on parking and traffic studies.

2002 November 6th. City's Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) holds a public hearing and votes unanimously to approve the Parrott Ave. (JFK) site with several technical stipulations.

2002 November 19th. City staff met with several parties interested in energy efficient construction and the LEEDS process.

2002 November 21st. City's Traffic and Safety Committee hold a public hearing and vote to approve the site plan for the library.

2003 January 16th. City staff and Planning Board conduct work session so that all pertinent information needed for public hearing on January 22 will be available.

2003 January 22nd. NLBC meets to review the actions from the City's land-use Boards and review City staff's studies to date.

2003 February 6th. Planning Board holds public hearing to consider the construction of a library at Parrott Ave. (JFK site). Planning Board votes unanimous approval.

2003 March 19th. NLBC meets to hear report from City Manager about the action the City will take in responding to Diane Tefft's action to put armory building on historic register. City Manager reports that City will follow Section 106 of Historic Preservation Act and all City staff will cease design work until process is completed.

2003 April 1 Dr. Betterly and Jim Garvin of NH Division of State Historical Resources meets with Cindy Hayden, Community Development Director and City staff to review procedures and requirements for carrying out the Section 106 Process of the National Historic Register Act.

2003 April 16 Assistant Attorney General Terry Knowles meets with residents near JFK/Armory site, City Attorney Sullivan, and City Staff to hear residents concerns about the effect the Peirce deeds might have on any construction around the Peirce property. Discussion centers on parking areas between JFK and Middle School, and along the fence at ballpark. Decided that survey should be done of that area.

2003 April 21 Cindy Hayden files Section 106 written report with NH Division of Historical Resources.

2003 May 6 NH Division of Historical Resources holds public hearing to hear public concerns about the historic value of saving the JFK/Armory or building a new library at that site. Well over 100 people attend. Dr. Betterly explains Section 106 process. There are 54 speakers and 53 written statements. They are very strongly in support of building a new library at the JFK/Armory site. The complete record of the testimony is on the City's website.

2003 May 27 Meeting with NH Division of Historical Resources and Consulting Parties as Step four of Section 106. Parties meet to discuss ways to avoid, mitigate, or minimize the negative impacts to the JFK/Armory building from building a new library. Bridge St. Parking Lot offered as alternative sit for library construction by Carvel and Diane Tefft and Leah Caswell.

2003 June 2 City Council votes 6 to 3 to "Authorize the City Manager to negotiate any agreements, comply with any applicable state, federal and local regulations, and otherwise take any and all steps necessary, which may include demolition of the JFK/Armory Building subsequent to the completion of the Section 106 review process, to bring about the construction of a new public library at that site in accordance with prior votes of the City Council."

2003 June 11 New Library Building Committee meets with city staff and representatives from the NH Division of Historical Resources to discuss the Portsmouth Armory and the Section 106 process. Staff members present results of the review of the Bridge Street site. Dianne Kelly Tefft speaks in favor of Bridge Street site. Members of the public address the need for a new library and pros and cons of both sites. The New Library Building Committee votes 8 to 1 in favor of reaffirming the JFK site for the new library.

2003 June 12 City issues letter to James McConaha, Director of the NH Division of Historical Resources (NHDHR) that the library project will proceed on the JFK site.

2003 July 15 Consulting Parties hearing on the Section 106 process. Attending are 2 representatives from NHDHR, city staff, architect Tom Amsler and consulting parties. All parties walk through the Armory building to assess the possibility of reusing parts of the Armory in the new library. The meeting continues in Conference Room A of the City Hall with the topic of discussion being minimization of impact on a historic site.

2003 August 4 Official letter to James McConaha of NHDHR of intent to move forward with library project. City offers steps to mitigate effect on the JFK site by adequately recording the history of the Armory building and memorializing Portsmouth veterans at the site of new library.

2003 August 26 City staff meet with McConaha and NHDHR staff to discuss steps to complete Section 106 process.

2003 September 24 Letter from James McConaha, State Historic Preservation Officer stating that the NHDHR considers the steps that the city has taken to explore sites is adequate and that his office is prepared to proceed with the final steps of Section 106.

2003 October 14 Sebago Technics completes a survey of the Peirce land. The results of the survey confirm that the new library will be completely on unrestricted land. The Middle School building and parking lot do encroach by 15-20 feet onto land restricted in the Peirce deed to be used as a park. The existing parking lot between the Middle School and the library site is also on restricted land.

2003 October 21 City staff and architect Tom Amsler meet with NHDHR staff at their Concord offices to discuss building design. All parties agree that the exterior of the new library as it has been developed in pre schematic drawings can and should be sensitive to the other buildings on Parrott Ave., to the Richard Ave. neighborhood and to the surrounding environment.

2003 November 4 Cindy Hayden distributes to NHDHR, City of Portsmouth officials and all consulting parties full documentation of the Section 106 process including all public hearings.

2003 December 3 Consulting Parties meeting on Section 106 process. Topic of the meeting is mitigation.

2003 December 8 City Council work session on new library building project progress. Issues covered: Section 106 process, Peirce deed restrictions, important design concerns with new building.

2003 December 18 Planning Board grants a 1year extension of the site plan approval to expire 2/6/05 for the "construction of a 2 story 38,000 sq.ft. building for use as a public library with related paving, utilities, landscaping, drainage, and associated site improvements including improvements to a municipal parking lot."

2004 January 13 New Library Building Committee meets for update on Section 106 process and Peirce deed restrictions. Present are John O'Leary, chairman of NLBC, Committee members, City Manager John Bohenko, city staff members David Allen and Cindy Hayden, City Attorney Robert Sullivan, Library Director Mary Ann List and members of the public.

2004 January 26 City Council meets to consider the proposed Peirce Estate Recreational and Environmental Charitable Trust to serve as a repository of any funds required compensate for use of land deeded to the city by Joseph P. Peirce. City Attorney Robert Sullivan is working with Terry Knowles of the Charitable Trust Division of the NH Attorney General's office on the establishment of the trust. City Council votes by roll call to endorse the trust with 8 in favor, 1 opposed.

2004 January 29 City staff members meet with representatives of the Jordan Institute to discuss certification of the new library under the LEED program for environmentally responsible buildings

2004 February 4 City signs contract with Jordan Institute to guide the project through the LEED process.

2004 March 16. City staff meet with NH Division of Historical Resources and come to final resolution on all outstanding matters, and full agreement on mitigation provisions to be included in the Memorandum of Agreement under the Section 106 historic review process; both parties initial each page of the agreement signifying their approval.

2004 March 30 Following end of consulting party comment period, City signs MOA and sends to James McConaha, State Historic Preservation Officer at the NH Division of Historical Resources for his signature.

2004 April 1 to April 26 City makes repeated unsuccessful attempts to obtain State Historic Preservation Officer James McConaha's signature on the agreed to MOA.

2004 April 29 Mayor Sirrell meets with Govenor Benson to try to resolve the impasse with the State Historic Preservation Officer

2004 May 7 SHPO James McConaha and NH Commissioner of Cultural Resources Van McLeod meet with city staff to finalize and sign the Memorandum of Agreement.

2004 May 20 City staff, New Library Building Committee Members and architect Tom Amsler meet to define the scope of the project and to facilitate the drafting of the contract for final design with Amsler, Woodhouse MacLean. Final design phase begins with 2 directives:
  1. Go ahead with the current design adjusted on the lot to ensure entrance and egress on unrestricted land.
  2. The commitment to pursue LEED certification is reaffirmed.
2004 June 9 New Library Building Committee meets to review amended site plan and interior refinements. No part of the new library is on Pierce Trust land.

2004 July 19 Request for Qualifications are published for a construction manager. Eight construction firms return completed documents by July 30.

2004 September 3 Construction Manager Selection Committee recommends North Branch Construction Company to be Construction Manager of New Library. City enters negotiation with North Branch.

2004 September 7 Technical Advisory Committee recommend approval of the amended site plan to the Planning Board.

2004 September 23 Planning Board votes unanimously to grant approval of the amended site plan.

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