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With costs rising for Patrick Henry Library project, Vienna agrees to contribute more

The latest design for the new Patrick Henry Library was presented to the Vienna Town Council on Nov. 13 (via DPWES)

(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) The anticipated cost of renovating Patrick Henry Library has escalated in recent years, leading Fairfax County to seek a bigger contribution from the Town of Vienna.

The Vienna Town Council agreed on Monday (Dec. 4) to raise the town’s cap on funding for the new library’s construction to approximately $4.7 million — a $590,000 increase from the previous maximum set in 2020.

Under the existing joint development agreement, the town committed to paying up to $4.2 million or 19% of the total construction costs, along with 30% of the design costs. The project will replace the 13,817-square-foot community library at 101 Maple Avenue East with a bigger facility and a new parking garage.

The remainder of the funds will come from Fairfax County. However, an updated cost estimate completed in September found that the price of materials, labor, fuel and other factors has gone up, a trend affecting all of the county’s capital improvement projects, county staff recently told the town.

“The higher costs are attributable to the market escalation for material costs including supply chain issues, and continuing shortages in skilled labor,” Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson Sharon North told FFXnow by email.

North says more specifics about the county’s cost estimates can be shared “in the next few days” after DPWES updates county leaders on the town council’s decision.

In an email summarized by town staff, DPWES project manager Maryam Mostamandi told Vienna officials that the county’s cost estimators believe costs could continue escalating “at least through the end of 2025.”

“However, they have also cautioned that the market remains volatile, and they are finding it difficult to predict costs for the future,” she wrote.

She said plans for “aggressive” sustainability goals — including solar panels and all-electric building systems to achieve net-zero carbon emissions — have also contributed to the rising cost of the Patrick Henry project.

Those initiatives don’t affect the town’s share, which covers the 84 spaces it has been allocated in the four-level parking garage, Vienna Director of Finance Marion Serfass told the council. She said it “may not be practical” to eliminate a floor of the garage to lower costs, a suggestion evidently floated by council members in an earlier closed session.

“That would cut our number of spaces dramatically,” Serfass said. “…It would cut 68 spaces out, so we probably would not have enough garage spaces to get anything from [the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority] or to receive the grant we have agreed to, because NVTA wants to see something for their money.”

Though construction bids aren’t expected to go out until next fall, this was the last opportunity for Vienna to back out of the joint agreement. If the town took that “off-ramp,” it could’ve gotten back $331,500, or 50% of what it paid for the project’s design, according to staff.

Instead, the council unanimously voted to move forward with the project, which has been in the works since a feasibility study started in 2018.

“I hope construction costs come down, but it’ll give us the parking we need and improve the vibrancy of Vienna,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said.

Councilmember Chuck Anderson agreed that the library is important to the community but warned county officials in the room, including Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, not to expect any additional increases to the financial cap.

According to town staff, the county gave “verbal assurances that there will be no more requests for cost increases.”

“I think we deserve the best possible library, and if there are overruns, we’ve kind of already paid for it through our regular property taxes to the county of Fairfax,” Anderson said.

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