Costly repairs mounting at Whittemore

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NAUGATUCK — The holes in the Howard Whittemore Memorial Library’s roof may be sealed for now, but the holes in the library’s budget make take years to repair.

Work on the 6,100-square-foot, 20-year-old roof, which started in mid-November, is nearly complete, according Library Director Jocelyn Miller.

However, $10,000 worth of unexpected costs to replace the skylight and put new insulation around mechanical apparatus has left library staff hoping for a miracle.

The total cost of the project jumped from $119,000 to $130,000, according to Miller. The library only took out a $120,000 loan from Naugatuck Savings Bank to pay for the project over six years.

The library was able to increase its monthly payout from an endowment left by the Whittemore family to $2,000 a month, which covers all but $400 of the monthly payments on the loan.

“I believe we can just barely squeeze that out of our budget,” Miller said.

The town of Naugatuck pays for 80 percent of the library’s budget, but doesn’t pay for infrastructure upkeep, Miller said. The library is a private nonprofit run by a board of directors.

Charley Marenghi, chairman of the library board, said the library will be able to absorb those extra costs for now, but will have to take money from some of the library’s smaller endowments to make up the difference. He said the money for the repairs may take away from programming the library would otherwise schedule.

We’re glad it’s done, and we’re going into wintertime without the worries about the roof we had last year,” Marenghi said.

The last of the roof repairs should be done by Christmas, Miller said. Then, the library can remove tarps that currently cover stacks of books to protect them from leaks.

“The staff is looking forward to removing those when we know that the roof is water tight,” Miller said.

Even if the library can find the extra $10,000 in its budget to pay for the roof, the repair is just one item on a long checklist of maintenance the building desperately needs.

“The old part of building was built in 1894 so it’s natural that it would need a lot of tender, loving care,” Miller said.

Also on her wish list is $71,400 for repairs to the rotunda, $4,300 to replace the side door, and $48,200 to fix up masonry.

“And I don’t know where that money is going to come from,” Miller said. “We have huge challenges with this old building and there are some things that really have to be done to protect the building.”

She said maintenance has been neglected for too long and now it’s reached the point where the building could suffer serious damage if those things aren’t repaired.

Once the roof is repaired, the library will have to assess the water damage and replace wood, carpeting, and ceiling tiles and check for mold.

The biggest project facing the library is repairing the rotunda, the gilded centerpiece of the building, which will cost over $350,000 to repair. The state library contributed $100,000 to the Whittemore, and the library has raised some funds itself, but the project is still $70,000 short.

“Everything’s ready to go,” said Marenghi, who was confident the library will raise the necessary funds by April, when the project is scheduled to start. He said the rotunda should take about 150 days to repair.

“In a perfect world, we will have a fresh start next fall,” Marenghi said.

Crocker Architectural of Massachusetts will make repairs to the outer part of the rotunda to fix leaks and structural issues, but the interior, where paint is flaking and the floor is run-through with fissures, will not be fixed this time around.

Naugatuck Window and Glass will replace the side doors, which stick and are difficult to lock, in the next two months, Miller said.

The caulking in masonry around the exterior of the building is also disintegrating, allowing water to leak in during heavy rainstorms. Miller said it hasn’t been re-caulked since the newer part of the building was built in the 1960s, but there’s no money to fix that yet.

Even the front marble steps are missing material between them. If it’s not fixed, the steps could come loose and the marble could start to crack, which would lead to even more costly repairs, Miller said.

“It’s scary because this is a really special building and water can do so much damage,” Miller said.

Marenghi said the library is constantly fundraising.

“We would be very grateful for any donations that people could give us,” Miller said.

With some extra cash flow, the library could pay off its loan earlier and save on interest, Miller said.

“It is a beautiful old building and we need to protect it so that it survives,” Miller said.

To donate, send a check to the Howard Whittemore Library at 243 Church St., Naugatuck, CT 06770, or call Miller at (203) 729-4591 with questions.

The rotunda over the entrance of the Whittemore library needs repairs.

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