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The library has a mold problem: Fixing it will cost a pretty penny

The Perham Area Library has a serious mold problem, and fixing it is going to be an expensive task.

It was revealed at a city meeting last week that water has been leaking through the library’s stone masonry exterior for years, leading to what is now floor-to-ceiling mold growth and wood degradation behind the insulation.

Air quality tests have shown that all public areas of the library are safe, City Manager Kelcey Klemm said at the meeting, but the insides of the walls scored high on mold counts.

As long as the mold is contained, it does not pose a health risk.

City Attorney Dennis Happel recommended moving forward with fixing the problem as soon as possible, before there is any risk.

But fixing it will be no easy feat.

After consulting with architects and other building experts, the city learned that there’s only one safe and effective way to get rid of the mold – remove all the exterior stone, as well as the insulation, thoroughly clean the wall cavities, install the proper drainage materials, and then reconstruct and restone the whole surface.

The project has an estimated price tag of more than $500,000.

“Obviously, that’s not something we want to do,” said Klemm of spending that kind of money, “but that appears to be the only way to correctively fix it.”

The architectural firm that oversaw the construction of the building in 1997, Foss Architects and Interiors out of Fargo, N.D., is denying liability for the mold problem, according to discussion at the meeting, and liability 

 insurance won’t cover the damages since the project is more than 10 years old, exceeding the statute of limitations.

City staff spoke with the original design team and contractor between 2002 and 2006, within the statute of limitations, but was misled as to the true cause of the moisture problem “either by omission, error, or incompetence,” according to a recent report by the Judd Allen Group of Edina, Minn.

The report, which had been requested by the city, describes the moisture problem as “the result of poor design and poor construction,” with insufficient waterproofing and drainage.

Happel said he’s talked to an attorney that specializes in this kind of situation, but at this point the city should assume there will be no legal remedy, and move forward with finding other funding sources.

Due to the nature of the project, however, finding those sources has proven difficult. Klemm said the mold cleanup doesn’t qualify for grants and other programs usually available for library and municipal projects. The city will likely apply for consideration in a future state bonding bill, but securing any funding from that may be a long shot.

“This project is a tough one,” Klemm said. “It just doesn’t fit into a category for funding.”

Because of the high cost, according to Klemm, it’s possible the exterior stone masonry work will not be reapplied, or will be only partially reapplied.

No final decisions were made at last week’s ‘discussion only’ meeting. City councilors are expected to address the problem again at their next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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