Costs tallied for odor that shuttered library

By Ashley Luthern


An unexpected closure because of an odor has cost the library system and a local business about $50,000.

The Poland Library reopened Friday after it was shuttered Nov. 16 because of a smell of hydrogen sulfide that was traced to an elevator pit.

The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County hired Columbus-based Lawhon & Associates Inc. for $29,000 to investigate the smell. That cost includes the firm’s contracting out the ventilation work in the elevator pit, said Janet Loew, library spokeswoman.

The library then agreed to pay the firm an additional $15,000 — for a total of $44,000 — for air-quality testing after the elevator work was complete as well as meetings that Lawhon had with other agencies, such as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Mahoning County District Board of Health, Loew said.

“Once the elevator work had been done, we wanted to test the air quality in the building, and that’s really important to us because this entire closure has been about keeping staff and patrons safe,” she said.

Lawhon also is contracted to help the library develop a plan to begin using the elevator, which remains out of service. The library is still handicap- accessible through the front entrance.

Although the library reopened, officials continue to try to identify a long-term solution, Loew said.

A report from Lawhon stated that hydrogen sulfide caused the unusual odor in the library and parking lot catch-basin area, but no sulfur-containing compounds were found inside the more routinely occupied parts of the library.

Lawhon’s “last opinion was that it was safe to reopen contingent on the elevator being sealed off and ventilated. We want to find a way to use the elevator safely without introducing the compound into the air, and the next step we hope is to locate the source of the problem, but that’s a little ways off, we think,” Loew said.

The library does not have an estimate of further costs that could be accrued as it seeks to identify and address the problem.

Kravitz Delicatessen reopened Friday as well, and still is totaling losses from the closure, said owner Jack Kravitz.

“Of course, we lost 21 days worth of volume. It was during a very busy time. ...Our losses are probably close to $5,000 or $6,000,” Kravitz said.

Food had to be thrown out and everything cleaned for the reopening.

“We had to leave very quickly and were unable to throw out anything or send anything to our Liberty location. ... It’s almost like starting over again,” he said.

Kravitz said the Poland location will honor some gift certificates, which were set to expire Monday, until Jan. 1.

Books and materials checked out at the Poland Library before the closing did not accrue late fees during the closure. The library charges 10 cents daily on overdue books, audio books and music CDs, and 50 cents for DVDs and videos.

If a book was due Nov. 16, the day the library closed, and was not returned until Monday, it normally would have had $2.40 in overdue fines. The fine would have been $12 for a DVD.

“I don’t think there would be a significant amount of money lost [from the fines],” Loew said. “It’s a courtesy to our patrons. We waive them every time a library closes in an emergency situation.”

Like Kravitz Deli, The Friends of Poland Library book store also lost out on potential sales. It had planned a holiday sale for Black Friday that was pushed back to Monday. All books at the store are half-off through the end of December.

The last lengthy, unplanned closure of a library branch occurred in the mid-1990s, Loew said.

The Cornersburg branch closed for a couple of months because of a leaky roof, she said.

The library system permanently closed that branch, which was in a rented space, shortly after that.

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