The Lawrence Public Library likely will need upward of $1 million worth of repairs to replace a deteriorating roof and an antiquated heating and cooling system.
Library director Bruce Flanders has begun sharing engineering reports with City Hall leaders that show that the 36-year-old library building is going to need major repairs sooner rather than later.
“From the library’s perspective, these repairs are not only a matter of protecting the integrity of the building but also the integrity of the collections,” Flanders said.
Finding money within the city’s budget, however, could be a challenge. The problems came to light after city commissioners created their budget for 2009. City Manager David Corliss said that may mean the project will have to wait until 2010.
“I believe it will be one of the important budget considerations for the 2010 budget,” Corliss said. “How important it is versus some other items will be up to the commission, but I do think it is very important to maintain the facilities that we have.”
Flanders said he understands the city’s budget situation. He said waiting until 2010 may work — or it may not.
“In a way, it is a roll of the dice,” Flanders said. “All the engineering reports we’ve received have said the roof is worn out.”
Library leaders have had two engineering reports conducted regarding the roof. A report in June recommended that the entire roof be replaced, but said the roof potentially could last for another five years before creating major problems. But that report also suggested that infrared testing devices be used to gauge the condition of concrete underneath the roof.
In October, the library had that testing performed and brought in a second set of engineers and architects to examine the roof. That report recommended a more immediate replacement.
“It is basically still holding together, but the longer we put it off, the greater the chances are that we’ll have a catastrophic leak,” Flanders said.
The first report estimated it would cost about $300,000 to replace the approximately 20,000-square-foot roof. The second report estimated the cost at closer to $500,000.
The roof last had major work done on it in 1978, Flanders said.
In addition to the roof, engineers urged replacement of three heating and cooling units on top of the roof. The units were installed new in the building in 1972.
“That’s a testament to the extraordinary quality of that equipment, but it is just at the end of its life,” Flanders said.
Engineers estimate that it will cost $342,000 to replace those units.
The report also recommends replacing three air-handling units in the basement of the building at a cost of $230,000.
Flanders said the fact the library board is asking the city to invest the money in the building is another sign that library leaders believe the building will be the long-term home for the library. Within the last two years, library leaders made a major push to win approval for a new “destination” library to be built elsewhere downtown. City commissioners, though, ultimately balked at the multimillion-dollar project.
“If we sink $500,000 to $1 million into this building, we would view that as a commitment on the part of the city and the taxpayers to maintain this building as the primary library building for at least the coming decade,” Flanders said.