BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — The city is planning to spend up to $2.6 million to fix Beverly Public Library, where falling plaster and leaking skylights have plagued the building for years.
Mayor Bill Scanlon has asked the City Council to authorize borrowing the money, which includes a contingency fund of $550,000 to fix any “unforeseen, hidden” problems.
Scanlon had pegged the cost of the library repairs at $1.1 million in his State of the City address in 2010. This week, he told city councilors that “the scope of the work on the library grew” as more problems were uncovered.
Public Services Director Mike Collins said the $1.1 million figure was an estimate. Once architects began looking more closely at the building, more problems were discovered, and the cost of repairs rose.
“They were able to determine what the deficiencies really are and how to rectify them,” Collins said. “It ended up being a little bit more involved than they initially envisioned.”
The problems at the library came to the forefront in 2009, when leaks in a skylight caused a chunk of plaster to fall, nearly hitting a patron in the second-floor fiction section, Patricia Cirone, library director, said.
“It was almost like a rainstorm in here,” Cirone said.
That part of the fiction section has been closed ever since, with a sign that reads, “Falling Plaster. Do Not Enter.”
The library, on Essex Street across from Montserrat College of Art, was built in 1913. It was renovated and enlarged in 1993, more than doubling its size.
Collins said the entire roof needs to be replaced, including all of the skylights and marble balustrades. The marble and brick steps leading to the front door on Essex Street must be completely reconstructed.
Water leaks through cracks in the steps to an electrical room in the basement, where a tarp covers an electrical box.
“Aesthetically, it’ll really clean up the front of the building,” Collins said.
Cirone said being able to reopen the closed fiction section will relieve a space crunch for books.
“It’ll be wonderful,” she said. “We’ve really been cramped.”
The City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the $2.6 million appropriation for Dec. 2 at City Hall.
If the money is approved, Collins said work would probably begin in the spring.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.