Estimate for W.T. library project doubles

Voters had already approved appropriating $1.2 million for the project. 

Expected HVAC costs at the West Tisbury Library have more than double. —MV Times

Fixing the West Tisbury Public Library’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system will likely be more than double originally estimated.

Town officials say the cost has jumped from an estimate of just over a million dollars to more than $2.5 million.

At last year’s annual town meeting, voters approved $1.2 million to repair and possibly replace the library’s HVAC system, alongside related repairs to the library building and grounds. 

During a West Tisbury select board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 15, the board agreed to put an additional request for $1.8 million to voters. 

The board was not thrilled at the cost spike. “It’s kind of unbelievable, but we’ve got to do it,” board member Cynthia Mitchell said. Board chair Skipper Manter said the price jump was shocking. 

West Tisbury is pushing for the new repair because the building is used as a cooling and warming shelter.

On Wednesday, town administrator Jennifer Rand said the HVAC project itself is about $1.9 million, and a new generator was expected to cost $300,000. Other anticipated expenses aren’t fully estimated yet. 

Rand says that adds up to $2.7 million for the HVAC system alongside related needs, such as those from the owner’s project manager (OPM) and site work. Rand said that the OPM had expressed confidence that $2.5 million would be needed, and additional funding was being requested as a precautionary measure. 

Rand emphasized that these cost estimates were under the assumption contractors will bid to do the work. 

“That’s an additional question. It’s not work people really want, because they have to come to Martha’s Vineyard,” she said, adding that there have been other projects on the Island in which a bidder gives a “crazy number” for their bid, contributed to by a lack of competitors. Additionally, Rand said, the project would need two bids, one for the HVAC system, and another for a new generator, which are experiencing delivery backlogs of up to 24 months. 

The Chilmark School HVAC project also experienced similar jumps in cost. The only bid for that project, from Abington-based Apex Corp., came in at over $3 million, more than double the budgeted $1.27 million. The town ultimately opted for a smaller generator.

In other news, the West Tisbury Select Board also decided to keep the nonbinding ballot questions regarding the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) athletic field surface — one asking if voters prefer a grass field, and another asking if they prefer artificial/synthetic turf — for the town election. Earlier this month, the MVRHS committee voted to withdraw its applications for the athletic field, and transferred the visioning task for the project to the MVRHS building committee. School officials also withdrew their request to Island towns to place the nonbinding questions on the town election ballots. 

Meanwhile, an inability to regularly make quorum and a loss of members is forcing the town’s task force against discrimination to look for clarity for its future. The maximum membership allowed on the task force is 10 individuals and there are currently five individuals, member Susanna Sturgis said. The idea for the task force was sparked during the COVID pandemic when a racial gap to healthcare accessibility became more visible, according to Mitchell. After some discussion, the board decided to return to the issue after checking additional information.


  1. There are numerous on-Island HVAC companies which could/should be doing this work. I can’t believe their quotes would come in higher than having contractors coming over from the mainland.

    • I believe the problem is you need to be bonded in order to work on any sort of municipal project and pay prevailing wage as well as other requirements? This issue comes up all the time with all these big projects going to off Island companies where we’re not able to keep the money circulating on the island.

  2. Maybe I should bid the job. Three million is ridiculous.
    If we run a quick estimate: The West Tisbury Library needs about five mini-split heat pumps at six tons (60,000 BTUs) each. They cost between $4,000 to $7,000 each. Let’s take the outside number of $7,000 times five. That’s $35,000 for the hardware. Installation averages $10,000 each (and the installer will make money at this rate). That’s $50,000. So the total for the AC is about $85,000. There is also a need for a generator, which was quoted at $300,000. I’m not sure I buy into that number, but let’s say it’s accurate. Then the total for the project would be a GRAND TOTAL of $385,000! The above article said there is also an allocation for “related repairs.” Where in the world is $2.6 million dollars going???
    Taxpayers, demand a recount.

    • Thanks for working out these figures.
      The WT Library provides so many marvelous services to the community.
      That should include favoring work opportunities for Island companies and their employees.
      Some very competent HVAC people live up-Island.
      How much does it cost to be bonded?
      Why are no Island companies bonded?
      Is this an issue that can be addressed on a community-wide basis?
      Is there such a thing as a “bond” cooperative?

      If Ms. Hansen’s figures are anywhere near accurate, we need to spend $2.6 million on solving the problem of bonding, not on gourmet off=island HVAC services.

      Hey, MVC, Chamber of Commerce, planners: Where are you??????

    • Mike, it appears that the library has a legal obligation to remain open to provide heat and air conditioning for people who need that service. It isn’t an option to close.

    • You don’t need a $300,000 generator to prevent pipes from freezing. Maybe 1/10th that price to maintain the heat in that building.

  3. Thank you, Mary, for stating actual ballpark numbers to illustrate the fact that, here’s yet another horrendous State-controlled municipal building project that ends up costing us many times more than it would if we planned, designed and built it ourselves. Again, the State is forcing us to do harm to ourselves.

    So what is it that the State has forced upon us, that has done us so such great harm?
    Here are just a couple of examples:
    1. The only options we were ever allowed to consider for our schools, town halls, libraries, police stations, and all other municipal projects, even for our so-called “emergency shelters”, were those presented by the State-required State-approved consultants and architects, and those buildings are all totally dependent on grid electricity and fossil fuels. And they all cost at least double what they would have cost if we had done everything our way. No proposals for 100% energy self-sufficient solar designs were ever allowed to be considered.

    2. Ever since 1995, the State has been forcing us to put in many thousands of Title 5 septic systems, at threat of $500/day fine for non-compliance – in spite of the fact that they knew from the very beginning that these septic systems would cause immense nitrogen pollution and algae infestations, and that this would do great harm to out ponds, our health and our economy. And now, to add insult to injury, the State is requiring us to install $50,000 DEP-approved I/A technologies to reduce that nitrogen pollution!
    Fortunately, there are better options available, which have been proven since 1995 to be just as effective as the best of the I/A technologies, but the cost is 60-80% less than those DEP-approved systems.
    However, even though both DEP and our own boards of health have known about these superior test results and low cost for a long time, and know that this filter system would not pose any threat to public health, these systems can not be used because they don’t have the stamp of approval from DEP – which would require 2 years of testing at a remote military site on Cape Cod, and would cost at least $100,000. These systems could of course be tested totally safely on-island, but that is prohibited by DEP.

    Who do they think they are? What makes the DEP think they can get away with causing us such immense harm?
    Well, the answer is, of course, because we have let them get away with it!
    Everyone seems to believe that we, the People, are powerless to do anything about it, no matter how outrageous the DEP demands, because: “We have to obey the State no matter what!”

    This attitude seems un-American and cowardly, not befitting anyone who believes in the importance of freedom to do what we know is best for our communities and ourselves. We know we can do it all infinitely better and less costly than what the State is trying to force us to do.
    We know we have the right to do what we feel is best.
    We know we have the responsibility to do what we know is best.

    I suggest that it is high time that we, the People, stand up straight, and look reality in the eyes, and get together to assert our inalienable right to protect our own health and economy, our ponds and drinkingwater.
    It’s high time we get up and do what we know is best to try to reduce the worst of what they say is coming if we just continue to burn fossil fuels, flush nitrogen into our water, and continue to be dependent on the national electric grid.

    We know how to make it all energy self-sufficient with 100% solar power and batteries, without any need for grid electricity or fossil fuels, with full functions maintained even through the longest blackout. And we know how to stop nitrogen pollution from our septic systems All in ways that are much more reliable and secure than any DEP-imposed stuff – . And, think about it, with such systems in place, we will never need fossil fuels or grid electricity again.
    Thus we can reduce our CO2 footprint to zero, provide reliable security for everything we need, and reduce our costs by 60-80%.

    All we need to do now is just get up and do it.
    What, really, can the State do to stop us from doing what we know would be much better. I can’t help laughing when I imagine how that might play out. On what grounds and by what means would they try to force us to do it their way? That’ll be something worth recording.

    Now we have before us a particularly wonderful opportunity: our high school needs to be repaired, improved and expanded. We do know for sure that whatever plans the State-approved consultants and architects come up with, our highschool would remain entirely dependendent on the electric grid and fossil fuels. That would be unacceptable.
    We also know that it would cost more than double what it would cost if we designed and built it ourselves. That too is unacceptable.
    So let’s get together as a community to explore what options we have regarding improving our highschool.
    Our goal is self-evident: we want the best highschool, offering the best education, powered entirely and reliably by solar, wind and batteries, without the need for any fossil fuels or grid electricity or toxic chemicals, ready much sooner and at far less cost than anything the DEP is likely to require.
    Time is of essence.
    This is an invitation to all students, teachers, parents, school committee members and other concerned Vineyarders, to join together to develop the best high school we can imagine. Time and place to be announced.

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