Library Project Update, Plans Coalesce

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Suffield’s Permanent Building Commission regularly meets on the first and third Thursdays of each month, but they added a special meeting on April 12 to hear consultant Robert May describe the plans now beginning to take shape for remediating the PCB contamination at Kent Memorial Library. Discussions with the EPA and DEEP have been productive, and May believes he is on the right track.

Tests for airborne PCB levels had indicated that the ceilings were the principal source, and experiments had been conducted to evaluate the cost and efficacy of several methods to remove the ceiling coating. As the ceiling is deeply waffled concrete, removing the coating is a tedious task. Recent experiments in the building showed that sand blasting would be three times more costly than mechanically grinding or scraping. And in a sort of belt-and-suspenders approach, the plans now include painting the ceiling with epoxy paint after the cleaning.

So the plan now is to run a pilot test in the gallery, mechanically removing the coating on the concrete ceiling and adding epoxy paint. The walls are to be cleaned and encapsulated with epoxy, and the floor tiles may be removed. The room will then be closed off, and the airborne PCB level will be measured. Depending on the results, the same approach could be extended to the rest of the building.

The overall plan now calls for the 70,000 books remaining in the building to be removed and well vacuumed, as they are assumed to have collected PCB particles over the years.

The cost of all this work will be daunting. One element – removing the sound-absorbing asbestos tiles at the “bottom” of each ceiling pocket throughout the building – was estimated by one potential contractor to cost over $100,000. Mechanically scraping the ceiling may cost on the order of a quarter million. Shelving must be removed from the walls. And much more. First Selectman Melissa Mack has said she plans to seek grant support for the work.

Last month’s update spoke of the plan for Silver-Petricelli, the architect for the present rehabilitation of the 1972 building, to prepare drawings describing the planned installation of compact shelving in the library’s Historical Room. Silver-Petricelli declined the job, and Commission Chairman Sangiovanni reported that the Historical Room work, along with needed rework in the auditorium, has been set aside pending progress on the main task of remediating the PCB.

In the small, temporary library on Ffyler Place, many patrons have been impressed at the way Library Director Jackie Hemond and her staff have been able to maintain good library services, though with only a fractional supply of books on hand and no historical archives. Melissa Mack comments in her column in this issue of the Observer that the Senior Center has been able to provide space for a number of library special events. This reporter, who plays the role of the conductor with other volunteers and staff in the library’s popular Polar Express program at Christmastime, now expects a third year of that program at the Second Baptist Church. But he hopes to lead his train of little passengers up and down the ramps to visit Santa Claus in the gallery at Kent Memorial Library in 2018.

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