February 17, 2018

Indianapolis PL Construction Project Still Causing Controversy

By LJ Staff

The Central Library expansion project of the Indianapolis-Marion County Library is still making headlines. After a thorough investigation of the project, which is $50 million over budget and has been delayed by two years, the Indianapolis Star concluded that the board above all made a poor decision regarding construction. The newspaper said in an editorial that the board "could have saved itself and the community tons of grief and expense by appointing a general contractor rather than keeping its own hands on the project and settling for a hired construction manager." A general contractor could have caught construction defects, the newspaper said, or at worst, would have been a single adversary in court rather than "the 20 or so plaintiffs and defendants who are entangled now." One letter writer challenged the newspaper’s conclusion, blaming the fiasco on partisan politics rather than the library board’s lack of political accountability, since the appointees of local elected officials made poor choices regarding firms hired, and conflict-of-interest overtones remain under investigation.

Even as lawsuits swirl concerning construction defects and cost overruns, the revamped Central Library should reopen in December 2007, about six months earlier than the previous prediction of mid-2008 – but far later than the original plan to finish by January 2006. While the library was supposed to cost $102.7 million, it’s now expected to cost $153.6 million. Former library CEO Edward Szynaka, who pushed for the revamped Central Library and was fired by the board in 2003, was, according to his supporters, a whistle-blower who tried to stop the board’s excesses. The library’s facilities manager recommended hiring a general contractor, the Star reported. Two board members, however, pushed hard for a construction manager, and those two board members had ties to firms that later were hired for the project. One of those board members is the subject of a current grand jury investigation, the Star reported last Thursday. The library now must borrow up to $45 million because of the cost overruns; the library board can raise property taxes and is expected to do so.