Costs rising as library repairs continue

August 22, 2012

The Sedalia Public Library has been closed for nearly two weeks due to structural concerns and depending on what a structural engineer says today, it could remain closed until repairs are complete.

Late last month, a 3-inch-deep crack was found along the southwest corner and west wall of the 111-year-old building, forcing the closure of the west wing, which includes the computer room, large print area, children’s area and the entire basement. On Aug. 9, a structural engineer deemed the entire building unsafe and closed it until bracing could be done on the western outside walls.

“Right now, workers are taking off the terra cotta on the southwest corner of the building to look at the brick behind it and see what condition it’s in,” said library director Pam Hunter on Tuesday. “It’s not looking very good; (they’ll) probably have to block the entire corner and put piers underneath the foundation.”

Hunter said neither she nor the library board knew the brickwork was in such bad condition, but noted the building’s age as a likely factor.

“It’s 111-years-old, the mortar has disintegrated so it’s not a huge surprise but we didn’t know exactly how bad it would be,” she said. “The original plan to connect the floor to the brick has had to be changed because the brick isn’t strong enough.”

Hunter said workers were numbering the terra cotta pieces they removed to make sure it would be replaced properly and in keeping with the Carnegie library’s theme. Once work on the outside is finished, engineers can move indoors.

“Everything is being done in stages,” Hunter said. “Hopefully, once the outside work is finished, we’ll be able to reopen the library. I’ve been told the west wing will still be closed, but at least we can get patrons in.”

Complicating the fix are costs, which have risen steadily the more in-depth the project goes. When she spoke to the Sedalia City Council at its Aug. 6 meeting Hunter asked if the city and library could split the phase one costs — then estimated at approximately $25,000 each  –– as it is a city-owned building.

The council agreed, though some members wanted that money paid back.

According to City Administrator Gary Edwards, the latest figure for phase one costs has gone up to $100,000.

“We’re anticipating an update on pricing this week,” he said. “But the latest numbers I’ve heard, to fix the entire west wing would be $500,000, the entire building $1 million. In my opinion, I think we’re looking at the west wing, at the very least.”

Edwards said the council has been updated on the numbers and city staff are continuing to look at the shared cost issue. During its meeting Aug. 13, the library board spoke about potential fundraising projects. Hunter said there have been no plans yet for a fundraiser, “we’re a little overwhelmed at the moment with the project” but she expected one to be planned soon. However the Sedalia Area Literacy Council hoped to spur individual donations by giving $1,000 this week.

“(Tuesday) was our first meeting of the year and our treasurer brought up the idea of donating to the library,” said President Betty Albrechet. “It certainly fits right in with what we as a literacy council believe in and we’ve collaborated with them before on projects. I hope this donation could push other organizations to donate, too. Having a library in good condition is important for communities.”

Albrechet said there wasn’t much discussion between board members on whether or not to donate, but rather how much.

“The numbers kept going up and up,” she said. “We know $1,000 is just a drop of what they need, but every little bit will help.”

“We’re still playing the wait-and-see game,” Hunter said. “I’m just hoping at the very least we’ll be able to reopen this week and resume services.”

Donations for repairs may be sent to the library, 311 W. Third St.