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HomeNewsLocal newsAir Conditioning Issue Keeps Turnbull Regional Library Closed

Air Conditioning Issue Keeps Turnbull Regional Library Closed

After closing last Wednesday, the Turnbull Regional Library’s doors remain shut due to a malfunctioning air conditioning unit.

The issue concerns the air conditioning system’s chiller, which contains water that cools air before it’s pumped out into the building.

Jamal Nielsen, media relations coordinator for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, said his department does not know when the issue will be resolved and that the library will remain closed until further notice.

Currently, the chiller is working at half capacity, which Nielsen said can preserve the books and archives, but isn’t enough to handle extra body heat and the opening and closing of the library’s doors as patrons come and go.

The library’s windows aren’t designed to be opened and closed, so when the air conditioning system isn’t working there’s no ventilation in the building. Nielsen said an average of 100 people use the library on a daily basis.

“We’re trying to repair the chiller, so we don’t have to replace it,” said DPNR Commissioner Dawn Henry.

Henry said the contractor did not install a chiller with anti-corrosion coating when the library was built. Given the island’s high humidity and salt air, Henry said the contractor should have known the chiller needed this coating in order for it to last its expected lifespan.

According to Nielsen, the air conditioning system has had issues since December of 2012, which is before the library opened to the public. Henry said she was aware of the library’s air conditioning issues in the past, but that she first heard of the chiller issue last week.

“I’m not in a position at this time to make a final determination about what we’re going to do until a contractor can advise,” Henry said.

On Tuesday, a contractor that was not involved in the library’s construction was on site to assess the damage and to determine how best to fix it. Henry said the contractor would be back on Wednesday to continue investigating the issue.

At this time Henry said she doesn’t know if the library’s original contractor would be liable for installing uncoated chillers, since she wasn’t sure what was specified in the building plans.

Built in 2008, the library opened to the public in July 2013. St. Thomas-based Balbo Construction completed the $22 million library project that was designed by Jaredian Design Group.

Nielsen said there was a warranty on the system before DPNR took occupancy of the building, but he did not indicate if the system is still under warranty or if Balbo Construction is liable for the malfunctioning system.

Kim Blackett, assistant director of DPNR’s Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums, said ordering replacement parts would take between six to eight weeks. A new chiller will be needed if the damaged one can’t be repaired. 

Because the library isn’t operating at full capacity, Blackett said some library staff have been temporarily assigned to other facilities in the division.

To accommodate patrons, the bookmobile outside the library is providing limited services. Nielsen said books can be checked out and returned there.

At over 15,000 square feet, the Turnbull Regional Library is a large structure to cool. According to its website, it features:

– A 5,000-square-foot general reading room.

– A wing with a 3,500-square-foot children’s room, featuring a storyteller’s platform and murals.

– A wing with a 3,500-square-foot Caribbean room.

– A 2,500-square-foot young adult area around a railed mezzanine.

– A 1,250-square-foot public auditorium with seating for about 100 people.

More than one of the territory’s libraries are closed at this time. The Elaine I. Sprauve Public Library on St. John is currently undergoing renovations, but Nielsen said it should open in the next couple weeks. The Athalie M. Petersen Public Library in Frederiksted on St. Croix is also closed for renovations.

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