Turn toward a cheaper option

Library board looks at HVAC fix that wouldn’t break the bank

Manistee Library

Manistee Library

MANISTEE — Plans to improve the historic Carnegie building that houses the Manistee Library took a turn at the Manistee County Library Board meeting on Tuesday.

A scaled-down heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) project that takes into account that the library might not always be in that building was discussed by the board.

“This is really going to rock the boat,” said John Faher, library board president, before pulling out a 2012 study that listed more economical options than those more recently discussed.

The option he suggested would cost in the hundreds of thousands — as opposed to more than $1 million with other projects that have been discussed — and addresses the immediate problem of the HVAC, he said.

In 2012, the estimated cost was about $180,000. Now, three years later, it would be more.

“There seems to be consensus that this building really doesn’t serve the library adequately,” Faher said. “The reality is, we cannot afford to stay here, and we cannot afford to leave. So what do we do? We are looking at imminent failure of the HVAC. We need to solve that immediate problem. I’m of the opinion that we’re going to be here short term.”

Using the building short term lends to a fix that addresses only the HVAC system, he said.

The option would provide two 20-ton condensing units rather than a full new system. The technology would be older than what was proposed in the more expensive options.

“This is very pragmatic,” said Barry Lind, library board secretary. “It addresses much of the aging equipment. It doesn’t bring it up to 21st century standards, this is 20th century technology. But, it doesn’t run the risk that we’re using equipment that’s 10 years past its expected lifespan.”

The board discussed getting the county commissioners involved in the process moving toward the new option.

The county board would likely be more receptive of this less expensive plan, said Richard Schmidt, county commissioner and liaison to the library board.

County commissioners spent nearly an hour discussing the library building needs at their meeting last week. Most commissioners agreed that the most economical option to keep the building up and running is what should be considered.

“There are cheaper ways of getting the system up and running,” said Brook Shafer, county commissioner, during last week’s meeting.

Other commissioners echoed his comment.

During public comment, a representative of the Friends of the Manistee County Library read a letter signed by members.

“This needs to get done, sooner rather than later,” the letter states. “Putting a Band-aid on it to just get by for a few more years is not the solution. The longer you wait to fix this, the more expensive it will become.”

The letter also suggests that the financial burden should fall to county government since the building is owned by the county.

The project that has been discussed for the past several months would fix the HVAC, enhance lighting and possibly add a second floor restroom and new fire alarm system. The HVAC would be the best, newest, most energy efficient system.

A $1.5 million bond issue is ready to go out for bids whenever the county board gives the green light, but both boards have been hesitant to continue toward that option because library trustees and the library’s accountant don’t believe the library’s millage and other income can support an annual bond payment.

Bond payments could range between $80,000 and $110,000 a year for 20 years depending on the scope of the project.

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Posted by Justine McGuire

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