Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2008

No surprise

There’s no excuse for the city not planning ahead for major repair needs at the Lawrence Public Library.

December 28, 2008


It’s not like the city couldn’t have seen these problems coming.

The director of the Lawrence Public Library released information last week showing that the library soon will need more than $1 million in repairs to its roof and to its heating and cooling system. Even though delaying repairs to the roof could endanger library collections and equipment, city officials say that, because the problems were reported after the 2009 budget was completed, those repairs may have to wait until 2010.

This maddening situation is reminiscent of the problems Lawrence is facing with its street system. It should be no surprise to city officials that streets need to be maintained, and yet, the city fell so far behind in its maintenance and replacement schedule that voters were asked last month to approve a sales tax increase to help it catch up.

The library’s heating and cooling system is the original system in the building, which was completed in 1972. The last major work on the library’s roof was done in 1978. Did no one expect that, after 36 years, the heating and cooling system would need to be replaced? Did no one think that the roof might need some major work 30 years down the road?

Library officials have had two engineering firms look at the roof. One said it could last for another five years before experiencing serious problems. After infrared testing was done to assess the condition of the concrete under the roof, another engineering firm said the work should be done sooner. Costs to do the work ranged from $300,000 to $500,000. The cost of replacing rooftop heating and cooling units and air-handling units in the basement is estimated at about $572,000.

Library officials should have alerted the city to problems with the library structure sooner, but the idea that the city had set aside no funds to deal with such long-range maintenance issues is troubling. The fact that plans to replace the library had been discussed in recent years is no excuse. The city should have been setting aside money for such long-term repairs. If officials and voters had decided to build a new library, that funding could have been moved forward to the replacement building.

Because the money isn’t there, the city now is gambling its investment in library materials and equipment on the odds that a deficient roof will hold out for another year or until it can include funds in a budget to replace it. That puts a major taxpayer investment in jeopardy because officials didn’t plan ahead for completely predictable repair projects.

Taxpayers have a right to be upset.


grimpeur 9 years, 3 months ago

I wonder if the editors have the same clarity in foreseeing the traffic and commuting needs of our city and region in 20 years, and if they can think of a way to replace our current use of the personal auto. Taxpayers will have a right to be upset if they have to sit in gridlock because a) their fellow commuters still insist on driving their own cars alone every day instead of carpooling; b) no alternative exists; and c) KU, the high schools, and local and regional employers keep encouraging them and enabling them to drive SOV.There should be a parking stall impact fee of $20/year/parking place for new developments, and a one-time fee of $1,500/garage space on residential, including multi-plex apartment developments.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 3 months ago

"Taxpayers have a right to be upset."Given that only 20-30% bother to vote in city elections, most have no right at all to be upset.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 3 months ago

Even I know that buildings need repair from time to time. According to statistics 91.1% of flat roofs fail prematurely. In five studies involving over two billion square feet of flat roofs, the average life expectancy of a flat roof in the U.S.was less than 13.4 years.What about the walls, inside and out? When are they going to need to be repainted? Etc. etc. every homeowner knows there is always something that needs to be done. It is like people who look out the window in January and go, "oh my God, there is snow out there!" After thirty or so years in Lawrence, yet!

Lowell Holmes 9 years, 3 months ago

Lawrence is no different than any other community, the powers that be never look to the future when repairs will be needed. Look at KU and all the buildings in desperate need or serious repairs but there is no money available. Why is this such a difficult concept for people to grasp. Buildings wear out and need to be repaired so why not provide the means for those repairs when raising the money to build the things in the first place because no one down the line is going to consider spending money on repairs on old buildings when spending on new buildings is much more fun.

Lawrence49 9 years, 3 months ago

I feel that the Lawrence city commisioners like to spend money on new things and do not maintain anything. Also, KU does not budget for maintenance and Lawrence homeowners do a poor job of maintaining residential properties.

rorik23 9 years, 3 months ago

I do think that Lawrence's roads are in worse shape than those in many other similar communities. Those in Manhattan or even Topeka are in much better shape. It's like the city completely forgot that roads have to be maintained, even after you build them! Driving Kasold between Clinton Parkway and 31st is a nightmare.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.