Leaky Main Library fix to cost $1.4M

Taxpayers fronting bill for now

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The leaky downtown library that the city spent $95 million to build could be plugged up with money from your wallet.

The Main Library opened nine years ago, and already the city is in the hole for another $1.4 million to fix a leaky roof and windows. The problem is so bad that the city had to extend repairs until spring.

The library is still under warranty with the builder, but taxpayers are fronting the repair bills right now.

The city is paying for the repairs but is suing to get the money back from the builder. It doesn't always work and that process is ongoing.

Still, the scaffolds will be at the library until at least May.

About 800,000 people visit the Main Library each year. But in some areas they've had to dodge construction, with tarps over a small portion of books and areas blocked off as windows are being replaced, all to keep water out, and books and materials dry.

Much of the water damage has already been repaired, but there is still work being done.

Many people are surprised because the building is not that old.

"You can imagine with the scaffolding and the construction going on, of course it's been an inconvenience, but we appreciate the work getting done as quickly as it can," said Kathy Lussier, of Jacksonville Public Library. "We want it to be done right, and we look forward to having it finished this spring."

That work was supposed to be done by January. It's been extended because when crews removed the stucco, they found the damage was more severe than first thought. So now it looks like the repair work won't be done until May.

Library patrons say they're glad it's being fixed, but wonder about the cost.

"We spent too much taxpayers' money for something this beautiful for it not to be done correctly," Marie Peterson said. "We already paid for it. It should be the company that built it that should be responsible for it."

The city thinks so as well. That's why it's suing the builder, Elkins Constructors, and the architect to recover the money. The process is now in litigation and lawyers are trying to work out a deal. It's not known when or if that will be settled.

The city says it has to act on these repairs no matter who pays because the integrity of the building is at stake. The water damage could lead to mold and other issues.

"Our books, our materials have been safe," Lussier said. "We have some damage to the structure itself as far as the water intrusion goes."

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