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Pugwash's new $2.198 million library taking shape

PUGWASH – Pugwash’s new $2.198-million library is rapidly taking shape.

 Led by Iron Maple Constructors, work on the project began three weeks ago near the intersection of Highway 6 and Durham Street in the village.If everything goes as planned, the project will be finished by the end of October with the library opening early in 2023.

“Everything is moving along as scheduled,” project lead Roger MacIsaac said. “We started four weeks ago with the necessary groundwork and continued with putting the footings in place. Now we’re at the point where we’ve started pouring the slab.”

MacIsaac said it won’t be long before walls begin going up along with a roof. Once that’s done, work will move into the interior over the remainder of the summer and into early fall.The 3,700-square-foot library will replace the library in that has called the village’s former train station home since 1988.

The project is the culmination of a process that began eight years ago, in 2014, when the Pugwash Library Centre Feasibility Study and Concept Design was developed.The report explored community needs, potential markets, conceptual design, and potential sites for the envisioned centre.

The analysis identified the current library as an important and well-used community asset, however, challenges associated with the space in the former train station emphasized the need for a new and improved facility to better serve community needs.   

The need for a community library has been highlighted for several years: before the 2014 Pugwash Centre Feasibility Study and Concept Design was developed, it was established that building a new library was one of the key community priorities.

The current library is very small, at only 802 square feet, with limited storage and circulation space around library stacks.It is not accessible for those using wheelchairs, strollers and walkers, and it lacks programming space, computers, staffing space, storage and sufficient washroom facilities.

In the Cumberland Public Libraries’ facilities review, the Pugwash Library was the only one of seven libraries to be classified as being in “poor” condition.

The Pugwash library, despite its current condition, is a remarkably well-used community asset. As of 2019, almost all Pugwash residents are members of the library, a measurable endorsement of the facility and value the community has for its public library.

"There have been a couple of different versions of what this was going to be," MacIsaac said. "This has come together quickly from completing and issuing the RFP in March, awarding the contract in April and design and detail plans starting in May. It’s a priority for the county and it’s happening.”

Dylan MacIsaac, project superintendent with Iron Maple Constructors, said things have gone very smoothly to date, despite several challenges, including labour shortages – something almost every contractor is facing across Atlantic Canada.He said the library will begin taking shape once the walls are in place and work moves inside.

“Our next step is to get the walls framed and the roof in place. Once we get the structure in place we can focus on the internal work."

Cumberland County’s chief librarian Denise Corey is thrilled with progress.

“We’re very excited and will be thrilled to move into the new library,” Corey said. “I’ve seen the pictures that were in the RFP and they look great. Now that I actually see the foundation in place and the slab being poured, I can see that vision becoming reality.”

Corey expects the library to be ready for the pubic by the beginning of 2023 as it will take a couple of months to set up the facility once construction is completed in late October.   

She said the new building, which is four times larger than the existing library, will provide so much more opportunity for the community. For example, she said, the new library will include program space – something the existing one doesn’t have.

“Right now, the book club can only meet when the library is closed because there just isn’t the space,” Corey said. “The opportunities are almost endless.”

Corey is pleased with how the community has gotten behind the project.

The Municipality of the County of Cumberland is providing $1.5 million with the community expected to raise $500,000.“The community has really supported the project and the fundraisers have almost raised the community’s portion of the funding,” Corey said. “That says a lot about the community and what a new library means to it.”

There have been numerous discussions over the years about replacing the library with a new building. Earlier this year, the municipality announced its plans to move forward with the project. The Pugwash Master Plan proposed a community centre, valued at more than $4 million.

Cumberland County Mayor Murray Scott said council made the decision that it was time to move forward with the project because it’s something that’s needed and a facility that will serve a lot of people along the North Shore.“I believe this is more than a library, it will be a gathering place for the community,” the mayor said. “A great deal of credit has to be given to the fundraising committee and the community for the support offered to this great project already”