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Trustees are concerned about safety and structural issues at the North Adams Public Library.

North Adams May Seek Funds For Library Repair

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Mayor Richard Alcombright and Building Inspector William Meranti met with the library trustees last week after concerns surfaced about the condition of the historic building.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The mayor told the library trustees last week that the city is aware of the public library's maintenance needs.
 
Mayor Richard Alcombright and Building Inspector William Meranti attended the trustees meeting last Wednesday to quell concerns about deferred building maintenance.
 
"I got a sense ... that there is a certain amount of angst on the board over what we might call deferred maintenance that is currently here and angst that the administration is really not paying attention," Alcombright said. "I want you to know we are."
 
Over the past few months, the trustees have aired some grievances about internal issues in the building and structural problems that they felt the city was brushing to the side.
 
Alcombright acknowledged there are issues but said they needed to dial in the actual problems and quantify their urgency. He said Meranti will continue to meet with architect Thomas Bartels to discover what the structural issues really are.
 
He said in early conversations with Bartels, Meranti believes the issues to be less urgent than originally implied.
 
"What Bill has told me is that he does not get the same level of angst from Tom [Bartels] that might have been reported," he said. "Not to say that that gives us time to ignore things, it just gives us a different way to react." 
 
The mayor said the city, in conjunction with the trustees, must form a list of prioritized building issues and nail down costs associated with them. He said this is incredibly important when addressing structural issues if they want to solicit the Massachusetts Historical Commission for repair funds.
 
"If they give us $50,000 and I have to find $50,000 to match, we are in a little better position to do that now," he said. "So if we can get solid numbers … I am pretty sure I can go to [City] Council and get their support for a Mass Historic matching grant." 
 
Trustee Rich Remsberg said some of his own concern came from his fear that the city was unaware of the condition of the building and he did not want the city to oversee the Mass Historic grant deadline.
 
Alcombright said City Hall has been aware but there are issues to address in all public buildings.
 
"If the trustees feel ignore, I apologize for that but we have significant building issues in really any building we look at in the city," the mayor said. "But please know we want to make this commitment." 
 
He added that with solid numbers, the city may be able to get some repair projects going under the Notre Dame Church's emergency repair project. He said these emergency funds can be applied for any time.
 
Library Director Mindy Hackner said a lot of her irritation came from ongoing problems inside of the building, such as dead lights that have not been replaced.
 
Alcombright said the city may be able to address the lighting issue now that it has been designated as a Green Community. The state is expected to provide funding that could be used to install efficient lighting in the building.  
 
Trustee Donald Pecor said he was less concerned about cosmetic issues and more about safety issues, such as the parking lot lighting. Currently, only two lights work in the parking lot.
 
Alcombright said he can relay the work to the Department of Public Works.
 
Trustee Hulda Jowett said her biggest fear was the leaking gutters that have not been cleaned out in years. 
 
Meranti said a lift was scheduled to clean them out after it was used at Notre Dame and the Armory but it never made it to the library and had to be rescheduled.
 
He added cleaning the gutters is not the issue, but that a seam that has let go. He said this is somewhat of a difficult thing to fix.

The leak is not doing the building any good but there is no immediate danger of something falling off the building and hurting someone, the mayor said.

Jowett said that was not necessarily their concern, but they feared the ice accumulation near the return box could cause someone to slip.
 
Alcombright said the building department will compile a list and promised that the trustees and the administration will stay on the same page.
 
"This is the heartbeat of this community," he said. "It is a lovely building and we need to preserve it." 

Tags: historic buildings,   NAPL,   

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