Mould, leaks plague library

Debbie Duncan
Debbie Duncan
Immediate repairs are planned for Balclutha Library, after it was deemed "not fit for purpose" last week.

The Clutha District Council was alerted by staff to the parlous state of health and safety at the public facility in March, leading councillors to discuss funding for repairs to long-standing leaky roofs and related issues at their Balclutha meeting last Thursday.

Council head of libraries Debbie Duncan said the building was "not fit for purpose", due to persistent leaks and damp causing mould and an unsafe environment for staff and users.

In a report to the council, Ms Duncan and council project manager Hebe Juan said the library had experienced "numerous" leaks throughout the building for many years.

"Although there has been some remedial work to address the worst of these, our . . . contractor has advised that the point has been reached where significant roof renewal is required to make the building watertight.

"The library also suffers from poor ventilation, with no current external extraction, including within the bathroom facilities. Measurement of the air change rate (ACH) showed 0.084 changes per hour, which is far short of acceptable levels."

Recommended ACH levels were 2-3 for office spaces and about double for schools, the report said.

An external health and safety report into the building showed "severe" mould issues.

"The report highlights the severity of the mould within the building and the need for this to be addressed alongside the watertightness and installation of an adequate ventilation system. Taking into consideration the impact this has on the health and well-being of staff and the community, and the very real risks that the building might need to be vacated if something wasn’t urgently done, the chief executive [agreed] . . . remediation work be completed as a priority."

The report said the council had approved a budget of $500,000 for the work in its upcoming long-term plan.

It proposed bringing forward funds from the Balclutha Library capital budget of $110,000 to allow work to begin as soon as possible.

Questioned on the urgency of starting work this financial year, Ms Duncan said doing so would allow contractors to be secured before they began work scheduled elsewhere for the new financial year from July 1.

An immediate start would also allow contractors to escape the worst of anticipated poor seasonal weather, she said.

Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan expressed concerns making repairs now would simply delay the inevitable.

"Does this commit us to incremental repairs and, if so, does that leave us unable to replace or relocate the library down the track?"

Councillors voted unanimously to fund immediate repairs from the capital budget.