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Costs tallied for odor that shuttered library

Published: Tue, December 11, 2012 @ 12:08 a.m.

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.


1republicanRick(1736 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

This shows complete mismanagement by the Library with an outrageous cost by an out of town testing lab.

Here is how this should have been analyzed -- you work in a LIBRARY so the only chemicals around should be cleaning ones. Go sniff the closet that houses them. Then call the gas company to check for leaks. This comes FREE with their service. They find nothing. Next, call a licensed plumber. They check the sink traps and toilets and find nothing. Bill around $ 450 dollars. Someone notices the smell comes from the elevator pit. Call Otis. They find excess dampness in elevator shaft. Call back the plumber who pumps out the water. Another $ 450 bill for a grand total of $ 900 vs the $ 50,000.00 the Library spent.

Next time, do not over react, just call a LOCAL reputable plumber or mechanical contractor and save yourselves a bunch of money.

And, Lawhon should be ashamed of themselves. $ 50,000 to find some stagnant water?

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2republicanRick(1736 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

As a followup, last summer I smelled a slight rotten egg smell in my bathroom. I checked under the sinks to no avail. My wife noted that we had been using the shower stall and not the bath tub lately. Aha, she's smart. The water in the drain pump to the tub had dried up and a small amount of gas (rotten egg smell) was then escaping into the bathroom. We ran the water for a minute and re-flooded the drain pipe to block the smell, as designed. Problem solved.

This problem at the Poland Library came after Storm Sandy dumped 6 days of rain on our area. The water table rose and the library had an unusual excursion of water into their low lying areas. Problem should not occur until we get excess rain again.

And next time, just call a licensed plumber!

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3DwightK(1537 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Ridiculous. Are you telling me the smell was so bad that the deli wasn't allowed to remove their food? Couldn't they run the sniffer by the deli area to see what the PPM of hydrogen sulfide was so they could see if it was safe to work in that part of the library? This sounds like a lot of hysteria cost Poland a lot of money.

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4redeye1(5669 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Aren't you glad we voted in the levy last year. What a waste of taxpayers money! Can't wait to vote down the levy next time.

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5kurtw(1823 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

It is ridiculous. There are plenty of local contractors that could have addressed this issue for a fraction of what the Columbus "consultants" charged the system. What, exactly, did they do that merited a $50,000 pay check?

Last time I voted in favor of the Library Renewal Levy. Next time I may have to re-consider in light of these cost overruns. It seems to me our library system is a miniature paradigm of the Federal Government. Money is no object, when it isn't your own.

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6kurtw(1823 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Also, has anyone, lately, checked out the Poland Library (and, on a smaller scale, the Austintown Library)? I thought Libraries were meant as repositories for books and not Candidates for Architectural Digest.

Why do these places have to be so ornate and elaborate- when the public is supporting them. Who made those kinds of decisions and were they wise ones?

In my view (as a bibliophile), I could have books arranged on steel shelves and I would be happy. I don't need wonderful chandeliers and winding stairways, and curly maple furniture (uncomfortable to sit on) and all the other architectural adornments that you see in the Poland Branch. Who made the decision to spend this kind of money that wasn't necessary. (For that matter, it would have made more sense to spend money on computers and software than hard maple chairs to sit on.)

I repeat: a Library is a Repository for Books, the rest is just frippery that the taxpayers have to pay for.

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7kurtw(1823 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Again, this matter of calling in over-paid consultants to address a simple issue (a bad smell coming out of an elevator shaft), illustrates again the difference between the private sector (where the money is coming out of your own pocket) and the public sector (where somebody else get's to pay for the consequences of your decision) and shows why the US is 16 Trillion in hock. Many people making those kinds of decisions over the years have created the financial crisis we face.

It all comes down to simple economics. Somebody has to pay. And if you lean back, spend your time watching MTV and expect other people to make decisions that protect your interests, you will be sadly mistaken.

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