Since 1895, Sedalia Public Library has stood majestically on the corner of Third Street and Kentucky Avenue as a reminder that education and the pursuit of knowledge has always been of utmost importance to the citizens of Sedalia. That sentiment still holds true today even though the historic Carnegie building is undergoing extensive repairs due to foundation issues that were caused by extreme drought conditions in the area last summer.
The realization that the Carnegie building had serious foundation issues began on July 23. On that day, workmen were scheduled to tuck-point the southwest corner of the library building where settlement cracks had become evident. The lift truck was in place and the crew started moving slowly up to the roof as they surveyed the tuck-pointing that needed to be done. Upon getting to roof level, the work stopped as the crew discovered a three-inch gap where the terra cotta had separated. All work was halted and professionals (building inspectors, architects, and a structural engineer) were called in to evaluate the situation that caused the gap.
Before the day was over, the west wing of the library had been closed for the safety of the patrons and staff. The situation at the library quickly went from a simple maintenance job of tuck-pointing to saving the southwest corner and west wing from imminent danger of collapse. Crews worked around the clock to get the heavy concrete supports and bracing in place inside and outside to prevent the collapse of that part of the library. Soon, plans were in place to pier the entire west wing of the building and completely rebuild the southwest corner.
As the drought continued into August, additional movement was noted at the building’s entrance and columns, which were moving at an unsafe pace to the north. This prompted the structural engineer to close the entire library for the safety of the public.
Sedalia Public Library was now a library without a building to display its collection, so efforts were made to find a suitable temporary location. The library was very thankful that the State Fair Community College Board graciously offered the use of the former McLaughlin Bros. Furniture Store as a solution until the Carnegie building could be repaired.
With a temporary location secured, it was now time to concentrate on how to finance the funds needed to save the Carnegie building. The price tag had now risen to more than $1 million and there were still areas that had to be evaluated. The best course of action for the library to finance that much money was to become a part of the Certificates of Participation that the city of Sedalia was securing to repair the Washington Avenue Bridge and build the new fire station. So, the library decided to join the city and borrow $1.5 million in order to pay for the needed repairs to save the building.
The emergency situation with the building being in danger of collapse made it impossible to put off repairs until a bond could be presented to the voters for approval in an upcoming election. The Library Board had to act fast to secure enough money for the repairs and that is why the $1.5 million had to be financed through Certificates of Participation.
Now that the COP financing is in place, the library must address how to cover the annual debt service of $110,000. The library is asking voters to consider a $0.07 property tax increase per $100 assessed valuation on the April 2 ballot. The proposed increase will sunset in 25 years and will only raise property taxes on a $75,000 home $9.98 annually. If passed, the money will help pay for the emergency repairs needed to save the Carnegie building.
As foundation problems with the building were discovered throughout the drought-ridden summer of 2012, a common theme began to take shape with Sedalia residents. The majority felt that the historic Carnegie building needed to be saved so that a long Sedalia library tradition could be preserved. Many shared fond memories of frequenting the library as children and how much the Carnegie library has meant to them over the years.
After hearing these memories and knowing that Sedalians consider the Carnegie building a Sedalia treasure, the library has taken on the goal to preserve the building so future generations will be able to enjoy what past generations have held so dear.
Pam Hunter is director
of the Sedalia Public Library.