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Library officials hope repair costs low
Damage to leaky roof may top budget
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The Covington Branch Library’s roof and particularly its heating and air-conditioning units are in bad shape, and library officials are going to find out just how bad.

The Newton County Library System Board of Trustees voted at Thursday’s called meeting to hire Atlanta-based The Architecture Group to inspect the building’s systems, learn what needs to be done and bid those projects out for construction.

The initial analysis will cost $30,860, with the majority going to test the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system to see how it’s performing.

The roof is actively leaking, but officials are hopeful the fix will be simple; they have a budget of $200,000, including a $100,000 state grant. The main concern is that once the asphalt shingles are pulled up, there may be more damage to the rest of roof than previously expected.

However, the HVAC system is a mixture of different systems that have been repaired and replaced over the years — at times incorrectly, according to officials — and still includes an air-conditioning unit and boiler that don’t work.

A previous report completed by architecture firm Craig, Gaulden and Davis said the building’s boiler needs to be replaced immediately at an estimated cost of $67,000, in addition to repairing the building’s chillers and evaluating and, if needed, repairing the control system.

During their presentation, Architecture Group officials recommended replacing the whole system, but acknowledged that may not be possible with the current budget.

The library is setting aside another $200,000 to $250,000 for HVAC repairs, but won’t have an idea of the total cost until after The Architecture Group completes its work.

The analyses will be done by expert firms hired by The Architecture Group, along with architecture employees.

Macon-based NBP Engineers will look at the HVAC system. Engineer Tim Trotter said one goal will be to get a more energy-efficient system in the building to reduce future operating costs, as well as a system that requires less maintenance.

The current absorption chillers are more expensive to maintain, and fewer repair professionals are qualified to work on them, officials said; they can also be more difficult to operate.

One disturbing detail found by The Architecture Group’s initial inspection was that there is very little insulation in the attic area, with none above the light fixtures and none at the roof life, said architect Mack Cunningham.

Firm founder Roberta Unger said one of the first steps should be to insulate the building from the inside, which would cost around $40,000 to $60,000.

She said buildings constructed 15 years ago often don’t have as much insulation as is customary today, because people at that time weren’t as focused on that aspect of energy efficiency.

Board Vice Chair Lois Upham said after the meeting that the board is trying to be as fiscally responsible as possible, which is why it is having the analyses done first before deciding on any other repairs and spending any additional money.

The roof and HVAC repairs will be publicly bid out at a later time.