September 14, 2011
Madison Public Library beset by asbestos costs, hurricane damage and discord
Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Madison Public Library beset by asbestos costs, hurricane damage and discord By SALLY CAPONE Staff Writer Recorder Community Newspapers
MADISON – It never rains but it pours.
That could be said of difficulties facing the Madison Public Library on Keep Street.
In addition to ongoing asbestos problems and the question as to who should pay to remediate them, the building was damaged by the rains and winds of Hurricane Irene, which struck the area on Aug. 27.
The ceiling and floors sustained water damage, Library Director Nancy Adamczyk reported to the Borough Council at its meeting Monday, Sept. 12.
“We anticipate carpet replacement,” she said.
In addition, power was not restored to the building until Wednesday, Aug. 31, forcing the library to close its doors for a full week.
An agenda item at Monday’s meeting led to a debate as to who is responsible for capital improvements at the library – the municipality or the library – and even to two trustees defending the existence of the building itself.
A proposed ordinance was up for a public hearing and final vote Monday night to appropriate $30,000 from the general capital improvement fund for an asbestos abatement project at the library’s technical services department.
Councilman Robert Conley asked Library Trustee Thomas Bintinger what the library would do if the Borough Council denied the appropriation.
According to Bintinger, a state statute holds that the borough is obligated to pay.
Councilman Robert Catalanello, a frequent critic of the library’s requests for funds, asked about the cost of storm damage.
Library Trustee and former Madison Mayor Gary Ruckelshaus replied that the cost would be about $48,000.
“Water damage to the rugs will be paid for by the primary policy, but the roof problems are not covered,” Ruckelshaus said.
“If a tree came down, it would be covered, but this is not,” he observed.
“At what point do we tear the building down?” Catalanello asked.
To which Ruckelshaus responded: “Preposterous.”
“We would still have asbestos,” Ruckelshaus added.
“Flat roofs don’t work,” Catalanello stated regarding the building’s structure.
“It’s a matter of keeping it up,” Ruckelshaus responded.
He continued a previous discussion about the library’s surplus.
“There is a misunderstanding about the surplus,” the former mayor told the council.
“The $176,000 is an accumulation of 11 years with $18,000 per year.
“We don’t have much opportunity to produce profit,” he said.
Then Ruckelshaus pointed out the library’s sacrifices over the past several years.
“The supervisory staff was cut from five to four, more staff has moved to part-time, hours have been cut, the collection has shrunk and Nancy never takes a raise.
“Our staff is the lowest paid in the borough,” Ruckelshaus said of the public library.
Bintinger pointed out that the last big addition to the library building, which cost $1 million, was raised in cash.
“It was prudent financial management,” Bintinger said.
Getting back to the $30,000 appropriation, Ruckelshaus noted, “We are not just asking for a check from the borough.
“Asking us to pay for a capital expense would violate state law.
“We can’t fund a capital expense out of an operating fund,” he said.
Councilman Donald Links suggested that Borough Attorney Joseph Mezzacca Jr. research “the letter of the law” regarding the municipality’s responsibility to the library.
Catalanello stressed that he was not talking about not having a library, but was concerned about what he called a “drip” of requests for money.
“Inside of five years, what will it cost?
“Today, it’s $30,000,” he said.
Councilman Sam Cerciello spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance, remarking that the borough pays consultants $30,000 “to blow its nose.”
From the public at Monday’s meeting, resident Timothy Harrington of Cross Gates Road questioned the tone of the discussion.
“I don’t hear the degree of fighting between towns and libraries in other towns.
“Something is fundamentally wrong here,” Harrington said.
The public hearing on the appropriation will be continued at the next Borough Council meeting, at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26.
Back on Aug. 22, Mayor Mary-Anna Holden had to cast a tie-breaking vote to introduce the ordinance appropriating $30,000 from the general capital improvement fund as a municipal contribution to the library’s asbestos abatement project.
Voting against the introduction of the ordinance were Councilwoman Jeannie Tsukamoto, Council President Dr. Vincent Esposito and Catalanello, who suggested at the time that the library do more to raise its own funds.
The introduction of the proposed appropriation was supported by Conley, Links and Cerciello. Mayor Holden broke the 3-3 tie by moving the ordinance to a pubic hearing.
The library is paying the first $50,000 of the $80,000 asbestos project.
In late March, the library was closed for two weeks for an abatement project after an asbestos problem came to light last fall. Asbestos readings had indicated the levels were below harmful and the library continued to pass health and safety inspections.
Materials containing asbestos were used in the construction of the library in 1969.
Officials indicated last fall the asbestos issue primarily affected a reference area used by library staff, but concerns also were raised that asbestos could be spread into other areas of the library by the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
Last November, a further asbestos survey was performed by TTI Environmental of Moorestown Township as the library board of trustees worked on defining the problem and the scope of the abatement project needed.
Posted by tumulty at September 14, 2011 2:51 PM
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