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$106K more for repairs
City Council awards bids day before Decatur library’s close today
By Tiffeny Owens
The Decatur Daily

Daily photo by John Godbey
Laura Cornhill brought her grandson, Destin, 5, to the Decatur Public Library on Tuesday, only to discover the children’s department has been closed. The librarians did, however, have a supply of books from which the boy could choose.

The cost to install a new heating and air conditioning system, remove asbestos and upgrade the fire-alarm system at the Decatur Public Library will be $106,000 more than officials originally expected.

The Decatur City Council awarded $423,284 in bids for the work Tuesday, a day before the facility on Cherry Street Northeast prepares to close at 5 p.m. today. It will not reopen until work is finished, likely in late January.

The fixes are a long time coming for the nearly 40-year-old library, and that appears to be the driving factor in the additional cost for repairs. The city, which is responsible for the building, is weighing whether to hire a maintenance supervisor to protect its financial investment.

“The whole process has been rather messy,” Council President Gary Hammon said of the project’s costs. “But we started out thinking we just had to change out the HVAC, and it just exploded from there.”

Back in the summer, the city budgeted $317,000 for the project, but that estimate only covered a new HVAC system. As consultant Cornerstone Engineering Group of Decatur continued to assess the library’s needs, the scope of the project ballooned.

“The building has lots of issues, and the more they looked, the more they found,” library director Sandy McCandless said.

She has lobbied officials for a new HVAC system since April 2011, when toxic fumes were pumped out by the existing system after power was restored in the wake of the region’s devastating tornadoes.

“I’m absolutely delighted the council is doing this for the library,” she said. “Our patrons are upset, though, because we’re going to be closed for so long. What we do is not a luxury. It’s a necessity, just like our fire and police and our schools.”

The bids awarded:

  • $348,800 to Smith Service Corp. of Decatur for removal and replacement of HVAC system.

  • $3,043 to BBC Systems of Madison to upgrade fire-alarm system.

  • $14,600 to Hardiman Remediation Services of Ardmore for removal and disposal of materials containing asbestos.

  • $56,841 to Jennings Interiors of Piedmont for removal and replacement of ceiling tiles.

Hammon and District 2 Councilman Roger Anders worked with contractors to push down costs after bids came in over budget last month. District 5 Councilman Chuck Ard, who has procurement experience from his work as a BP Amoco executive, urged for clarity in the numbers in a work session held Monday.

“This has been a very difficult situation to get a handle on, and I’m not sure why it had to be,” Ard said.

“I’m concerned that even now we’re getting new numbers today,” he said, referring to estimates on future roof repairs — not included in Tuesday’s vote.

The city is working with a company to assess the library’s roof and what needs to be repaired, Hammon said. Officials are pursuing rebates from the Tennessee Valley Authority for making energy-efficiency improvements to the library.

“The new system will use between a third to a half of the energy the existing system used, and it should generate around $35,000 in savings annually on the library’s power bills,” said Haynes Smith of Cornerstone Engineering. “The current system is about as inefficient as you can get.”

The council also voted to scrap the antiquated existing 45-ton chiller. Anders said he wants any funds generated from that transaction to reimburse the city for the project’s costs.

Library closure

  • The Decatur Public Library will close at 5 p.m. today and will not reopen until late January.

  • A limited selection of books, audio books, DVDs and children’s programs will be available at a temporary location in Decatur Mall’s community room beside JC’s 5 Star Outlet.

  • Calhoun Community College will be open to patrons who need computer and Internet access. Its hours are 7:45 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:45-11:45 a.m. Friday.

  • Decatur Animal Services offers public meeting space 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and p.m. Saturday.

  • Items checked out today will not incur late fees until the library reopens.

  • The library will not accept any book donations but will check the outdoor drop boxes regularly.

  • For updates on the closure or to use the library’s electronic resources, visit its website at

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