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Library has roof, HVAC issues
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Newton County Library System officials continue to discuss how to pay for repairs to the leaking roof and failing heating and air-conditioning units at the Covington Branch and will have a better idea of what’s required after an assessment of the facilities from an architecture firm.

The library’s board of directors voted Thursday to pay $4,850 to Craig Gaulden Davis to analyze the building’s infrastructure, determine what work is needed, recommend a plan for repairs, and estimate the cost of those repairs.

Library board member Lois Upham made the motion to approve Craig Gaulden Davis because one of the firm’s architects, Stuart Stenger, has done work for the library system in the past and is already familiar with its buildings.

The roof has been leaking for some time, and during rainfall water leaks into the genealogy room; in addition, more water stains are appearing in the ceiling despite attempts to patch the roof. Board Chair Steve Whatley said previously the leaks need to be traced before officials will know what needs to be repaired or replaced.

The library received a $100,000 state grant, which is expected to be available after July 1, but will have to provide a $100,000 local match. A local fundraising effort is being mounted, but so far only $1,488.92 has been collected. The library receives much of its funding from the county, but with another tight budget year expected, additional funding is not expected to be on the way.

At their April meeting, board members also discussed repairs to the branch’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, with Director Lace Keaton saying that, based on conversations she’s had with state officials, repairs could exceed $1 million,

The library does not have the money to put in a new system, but the board hopes the study will identify more specific, less costly repairs that can be made instead in the short term.

"We have to prioritize. We have water coming into the building. The HVAC is working; the boiler is not working. Once we have the facilities assessment done and know what we’re looking at, we’ll be able to ask if we can fix one part of it now and pay for that and fix part of it later," Keaton said after Thursday’s meeting. "Because we don’t know what we’re dealing with, we can’t make a plan."

Whatley said he hoped the assessment would be ready in time for the board’s regularly scheduled meeting in August.

"We’re in the information business, and we just need to be prepared so we can take care of the public’s facility and the public’s money at the same time. That’s why we want a professional to review (the situation)," Whatley said.

HVAC problems at Porter, too

Problems aren’t limited to the older Covington Branch, as even the Porter Memorial Branch Library, which opened in January 2011, is having issues with its HVAC system.

The HVAC system failed last week when a particular part quit working; the library paid $950 for emergency repairs, conducted by Siemens Industry in Norcross.

The board also voted Thursday to approve a three-year preventive maintenance contract with Siemens at a total cost of $14,629, which includes replacing the high-performance filters used in the library’s special energy-efficient setup.

In making calls for the emergency repair, officials realized not all HVAC companies have experience dealing with LEED buildings. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a program that certifies buildings as being environmentally friendly.

One of the LEED elements is an energy-efficient HVAC system. The library has a raised floor, under which much of the heating and cooling equipment is located. This design saves money, because it’s the most efficient way to directly heat and cool the areas where people are, which is the first 8 feet off the floor.

The setup makes it more difficult to replace the HVAC system’s high-performance filters, which are supposed to be replaced every three to six months. Siemens will handle the filter replacement and other maintenance.

Keaton called six companies, but they were either not interested in performing the maintenance (including the original installer) or didn’t have LEED experience, leaving Siemens as the only company that fit the bill.