Nelson’s library could close permanently with a bill for millions of ceiling repairs

Nelson City Council may face difficult choices when it comes to repairing or closing the Elma Turner library permanently.

Nelson City Council may face difficult choices when it comes to repairing or closing the Elma Turner library permanently.

Nelson’s beleaguered Elma Turner library may not fully reopen until 2023, if at all, and the bill to restore the potentially dangerous ceiling could rise to $2.5 million, according to a report submitted to city council.

The library was closed in June after the discovery of heavy tiles in the ceiling that could pose an earthquake risk.

Nelson City Council elected members discussed the report in a full council meeting Thursday and raised questions about the length of the process during the meeting, reflecting community concerns.

They also questioned whether it was worth investing money in a building that would be left behind when a new library was built, and advocated moving or renting a different location.

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Mayor Rachel Reece asked CEO Pat Dougherty how he agreed that he hadn’t done the job sooner when the problem was initially discovered.

“I think these are reasonable health and safety questions.”

A visibly annoyed Dougherty said it would be helpful to get these questions ahead of time.

The cost of repairing the dangerous ceiling of the Elma Turner Library could reach $2.5 million.

The cost of repairing the dangerous ceiling of the Elma Turner Library could reach $2.5 million.

Reece said the interactions the library provided was at the heart of what local government was about.

Libraries manager Sarina Barron said more people were using the Nightingale and Stoke libraries, and programming and outreach had been tweaked by using community spaces like the Women’s Centre, but services for children had been drastically reduced.

Nelson City Council advisers have been tasked with conducting a new Detailed Seismic Assessment (DSA) of the library’s primary structure, which will determine the next steps for the library’s future.

Nelson's Elma Turner Library may not open until next year, if at all.

Fry Fastier/Things

Nelson’s Elma Turner Library may not open until next year, if at all.

That DSA should be completed by the end of October.

Should that review result in a score of less than 34% New Build Standard, “the board will have to be prepared to make further decisions about spending or closing the facility based on the outcome of the DSA,” wrote council manager for real estate services Rebecca Van. Order in the report.

While renovations have allowed the children’s library to reopen to the public, at the relatively low cost of $98,000, reinforcing the library ceilings has placed them in the margins of between $1 million and $2.5 million, depending on the degree of reinforcement. .

A timetable presented to the council, depending on the outcome of the DSA report, suggested a period of up to 15 weeks for construction. It would take four weeks for building permits and three weeks to find supplies and plan resources, meaning most of the library will remain closed for many months to come.

A report requesting funding for seismic enhancement is due to be completed by December this year.

An extended period of closure may be a concern for a council that has received lukewarm reviews from the community.

“The Council is at a reputational risk as a result of the prolonged closure of the city’s largest library facility,” the report said.

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