Construction on the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library is on schedule to break ground in April after library trustees voted unanimously at a special board meeting on Feb. 12 to award an $8,441,000 construction contract to Elgin-based IHC Construction Companies LLC.

IHC was the second lowest out of five firms which submitted construction bids, and was chosen after officials deemed the low bidder, All Construction Group, not qualified to perform the work.

According to Library Director Kimberly Coughran, the library’s architectural firm, Product Architecture, and their owner’s representative, Dan Eallonardo, both have experience working with IHC Construction in the past.

Eallonardo has been working with IHC on the construction of the Geneva Public Library, for whom it also serves as the owner’s representative.

“We are over the moon,” said Coughran. “It’s finally coming to fruition for Brookfield and residents, who deserve a spacious library.”

All five construction bids were within close range of preliminary cost estimates for the project. The library board had estimated the work would cost just under $8.9 million, and three of the five bids came in below that estimate. The highest construction bid was for $9.4 million.

“We were very happy to see the bids so close together,” said Coughran. “It’s an indication that our estimating was very accurate.”

With all fees and contingencies included, the final cost of the library is expected to be about $10.7 million. 

Coughran said construction is expected to begin in April and that the new facility would open during summer 2021. The existing library will remain open during construction, until the time comes to move materials to the new library across Lincoln Avenue.

“At no point do we expect to be closed for an extended period of time,” Coughran said.

Once the new library is open, the old library will be demolished to make way for a parking lot and park. That work is expected to wrap up by fall 2021.

Village officials and the library’s architects are working on construction staging. Coughran said that the library plans to offer residents email updates, if they choose to receive them, on construction once work is set to begin.  

The award of a construction contract puts something of a cap on the library board’s 12-year campaign to build a new facility that separated areas for adults, teens and children, with the capacity for more programming for all ages and to accommodate more people at public events.

At 21,000 square feet, the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library would be nearly double the interior space of the existing library, which was built in the mid-1980s at 3609 Grand Blvd. and, almost from the start, was considered too small to adequately serve the needs of the community.

After first eyeing property in the 3500 block of Arden Avenue in the Hollywood section of Brookfield, the library board was able to purchase the former Brookfield United Methodist Church at 3541 Park Ave. in 2012, paving the way for serious planning.

The library board won approval for a 30,000-square-foot facility at the site, but construction hinged on voters approving a $10 million referendum. That referendum was defeated in 2016, forcing the library board to reboot.

After a year of weighing whether to build new or do a large-scale renovation/expansion of the existing building, the board settled on building new, hiring a new architect and continuing to set aside property tax revenues in a special building fund that by the end of 2019 had grown to just over $7.5 million.

In 2018, a critical piece of funding arrived in the form of a $1 million donation by local businesswoman and former village trustee Linda Sokol Francis, for whom the new facility is being named. 

In addition to that large charitable donation, the nonprofit library foundation also set about raising another $345,000 for the cause.

The final piece of the funding puzzle happened last December, when the library board approved issuing $3.6 million in debt certificates through First National Bank of Brookfield.

On Feb. 7, the library foundation thanked its donors at a Donors’ Circle event at the library, which drew about 65 people.