MANCHESTER - The newest arrival to Manchester's revitalized downtown is the Manchester Community Library currently under construction on Main Street and Cemetery Avenue.

Funded completely by private donations, the 18,000 square-foot building will be not only a 21st library but also a true community center, said Linda Day McKeever, the president of the library's board of trustees.

"We see it as an investment in the long term future of Manchester and the surrounding communities that will pay benefits for generations to come," Day McKeever said.

The new library will replace the 116-year-old Mark Skinner Library in Manchester Village which could not be realistically upgraded.

Construction Manager Chris Cole, owner of Cole Engineering and Construction in Manchester, has previously worked on much larger jobs in his career, but the construction of Manchester's new library has a strong personal interest for him. He was an early supporter of the project, serving on the Building Committee for a few years and working on the feasibility study.

Once the decision to go ahead was made by the library's board of trustees, Cole was hired to be the owner's representative during the program and schematic design phase of the project, and eventually as the construction manager.

"I firmly believe that early involvement in a project provides significant benefits to all team members by developing an organized and economical approach with special emphasis on project costs and schedules," said Cole. "This saves many headaches down the road."

Cole and the board members devoted many hours to working out a design that would be as energy efficient as possible.

"We are following the guidelines for a LEED silver rating," said Cole.

He also brought Charlie Carpenter of Efficiency Vermont in early on the planning of a high performance building.

Carpenter said he was impressed by the high standards and the energy efficiencies that were designed into the building. "They went above and beyond the core building code standards and made important investments up front in the insulation, lighting, and mechanical systems which will bring long-term financial benefits," he said.

The building's primary heat and air-conditioning will be provided by "air-to-air electronic heat pump systems with a supplementary hydronic system with a gas boiler," explained Cole. LED and energy-saving fluorescent lights will be used throughout the building. The community meeting room is designed using traditional timber frame construction techniques.

The overall design of the building is meant to evoke a traditional Vermont structure complete with a slate roof.

"We were thrilled to have received a donation for the slate roof tiles from John Williams, owner of Newmont Slate Company in Poultney," said Mark Skinner Library's Executive Director Betsy Bleakie.

There won't be any solar panels on the roof, but this is not because they did not give serious thought to alternative energy sources. Solar was not going to be effective or efficient at this time, but the building has been designed to allow for future developments in renewable energy.

Once the primary contracts were awarded, work got under way on the site and over the last six months the layers have been steadily added.

"It was important to us that local contractors be a part of constructing what will be a true community center," said Cole.

During this first phase of clearing the site, pouring the concrete, and framing up the building, over 20 local firms have been working on the project providing everything from legal and environmental advice to electrical wiring to roofing.

In addition to local contractors, Cole has hired several staff members who are from the area. Administrative assistant Lauren Keyes lives in Manchester and has valuable experience running an engineering office. She is responsible for organizing the paperwork, sending out the requests for proposals, and providing support for the onsite team.

"I like the location of the new library and the fact that it is going to be an awesome building for the community to utilize and enjoy," she said. "It's going to be a safe place for kids to go." Gunner Tuttle, a 2007 Burr and Burton Academy graduate, is putting his construction management degree from Roger Williams University to good use as Cole's assistant project engineer.

"The whole job is a dream come true for me," he said. He's been onsite every day starting at 7 am and is responsible for looking ahead several weeks in advance to make sure they are on target.

Local builder Steve Tiene from Manchester is project superintendent and he can be found in the trailer every day making sure daily goals are met.

The building will be closed in and ready for interior work to begin by late November, Cole said, "and we are hoping local firms will contact me if they are interested in bidding on the balance of the work to be done."

The goal is to have the interior finished by July 2014 for a fall 2014 opening. There are over a dozen different specialties that will be needed including painting, millwork, and flooring. Local contractors are encouraged to contact Chris Cole if they are interested in learning more about the project: 802-362-0096 or by e-mail: ccole@colecompanyinc.com.

For more information about the new library, contact Executive Director Betsy Bleakie at 802-362-2607, by e-mail at bbleakie @markskinnerlibrary.org, or visit the website www.manchestervtlibrary.org to see how you can help.