Connolly Library roof still leaking

February 8, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

HYDE SQ.—The three-year-old roof of the Connolly Branch Library leaked yet again last month, continuing a soggy saga that has drawn the wrath of library advocates and the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC).

The January leak was the eighth since the roof was installed on the 433 Centre St. building in mid-2004.

“It leaked in 2005, it leaked in 2006, it leaked in 2007 and it leaked in 2008,” Fran Streeter, co-chair of Friends of the Connolly Branch Library, told the JPNC last week.

The JPNC voted to send a letter to the city demanding quick and permanent repairs.

“People in Jamaica Plain can rest assured it will be fixed,” said Carol Mahoney, the Boston Public Library’s (BPL) chief of branch libraries, in a Gazette interview this week.

Representatives of the roof’s manufacturer and installer are examining the exact cause of the leaks and will find a permanent fix, she said.

The most recent leaks, in December and January, were in the same place in the Adult Room. The December leak caused plaster to fall from the historic library’s decorative ceiling.

While the latest emergency patch seems to be holding, Mahoney said, the ultimate cause is unclear. Roof drains, rather than the roof itself, are possible culprits that are being tested.

The roof remains under warranty, Mahoney said, adding that the BPL has been assured that previous emergency repairs did not invalidate that warranty.

“Let’s see where this testing leads, and we’ll take it from there,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, adding that BPL officials told him they are “committed to keeping the manufacturer and the installer on the hook.”

“It’s shoddy work that’s been done,” said City Councilor John Tobin. “This thing is not even four years old. Our job is to get it fixed once and for all.”

The December leaks also renewed health concerns for three librarians who reportedly are sensitive to mold and construction dust. They were temporarily reassigned to other branches, causing short-staffing that resulted in shorter library hours on some days.

The librarians were reassigned yet again after last month’s leaks and will remain out until there’s a final fix so “we don’t keep bouncing them back and forth,” Mahoney said.

“We’ve come close to having to close for lunch hour” once again, Mahoney said, explaining that extra staff have been brought in from elsewhere to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Inspections by various air-quality experts, reviewed by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), found no immediate dangers from the recent leaks, Mahoney said.

“There’s no mold,” she said, adding that a final report is still forthcoming. “There was still a smell,” she said.

Following BPHC guidelines, BPL officials wiped down all hard surfaces in the building last weekend and have been running air filters and exchangers. Staff are authorized to contact BPHC immediately if they detect any odor, Mahoney said.

BPHC also recommended the installation of a “drip pan” on the ceiling to collect any more leaking water until a final fix is found. A hose runs from the pan to a sealed barrel to prevent any moisture from spreading or mold to gather. Friends group member Gloria Carrigg complained to the Gazette about the appearance and quality of a “bucket” bolted to the decorative ceiling.

Mahoney acknowledged the pan is a “spaceship-looking thing” and not very attractive. “When you look at it, you sort of go, ‘Oh!’” she said.

The most recent leaks reportedly did not damage anything in the library’s collection, though previous leaks have.

“I don’t think it’s a lack of commitment on the city’s part,” Sánchez said of the library’s leaks.

But the long pattern of leaks and similar problems at the Jamaica Plain Branch Library have led library advocates to question the commitment.

The Connolly Friends group last week issued flyers urging residents to contact city and library officials to “emphasize the need to have our roof repaired properly and permanently.”

“Our beautiful ceiling is in jeopardy!!!” the flyer said.

“Personally, as a builder, I think this is an outrage,” JPNC member Carlos Icaza said of the leaks at the council’s Jan. 29 meeting.

Sánchez said the Connolly Branch is an important resource for the neighborhood—and himself.

“People in that branch, they are so engaged over there,” Sánchez said. “I myself go there. When I need a quiet spot, that’s where I go.”
David Taber contributed to this article.

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