Mt. Airy library: Heating repair bill $15,000

A busted heating unit at Lovett Memorial Library in Mt. Airy has forced the branch to shutter its doors until at least mid-January.

Officials with the Free Library of Philadelphia met with residents Wednesday night at Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church to discuss the closure in detail.

William Fleming, administrative services director, said one of two 24-year old heating units at the library unexpectedly broke down in mid-November, causing the thermostat inside to dip far below the city minimum of 65 degrees.

The building went dark two weeks later.

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To re-open Lovett as soon as possible, Fleming said the public library system has opted to replace the unit’s heating coil instead of replacing the library’s entire heating and cooling system, which is standard practice in these cases.

The custom-made coil and the accompanying duct work, he said, will cost around $15,000 and take about six weeks to be delivered, installed and tested. Replacing the entire system would cost upwards of $250,000 and require the library to be closed anywhere between six months and a year.

Fleming said the temporary fix will hopefully keep the library warm through the winter and through mid-May, when the air conditioning is usually turned on.

“We all assume it’s going to work,” said Fleming, who said Plan B would be to break protocol and replace the single unit.

The exact date Lovett will open isn’t clear. The city is shooting for Jan. 18, which accounts for up to a week’s worth of cleaning-up and organizing the library’s materials.

But Fleming said it all depends on when the heating coil – requested immediately after the heating unit broke down – arrives.

In the meantime, many residents, like Brenda Beiser, said the community will be devastated. “It’s terrible, “said Beiser. “There are a lot of people who don’t have home internet and they use that. There are kids that use that library every day after school and they have no other place to go.”

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