Problems plague library construction
July 3, 2012
By Christina Lords
New opening date set tentatively for October
After setbacks have plagued the long-anticipated Newcastle Library, the King County Library System has set a new tentative opening date of October for the new facility — two years after the groundbreaking in 2010.
Newcastle Library Manager Bobbie Daniel said she knows residents are frustrated with the progress made on the $11.9 million facility, which will include books, materials, computers, space for children and teens, and a community meeting room.
The glass-window facility will include a waterfall and a green roof, Daniel said.
Several problems have stymied construction, including unforeseen trouble with the subcontractors working for Synergy Constructions, the general contractor for the project.
“We are equally frustrated at this end,” Daniel said. “It’s pretty unusual to have this happen. We’ve had a tremendous record with our subcontractors before now.”
After the Oct. 20, 2010, groundbreaking, the project’s concrete subcontractor pulled out of the project in February/March 2011. Synergy found a new subcontractor for that aspect of the project and absorbed additional costs, according to a KCLS construction outline.
The second subcontractor defaulted on the project after about a month, and Synergy took over that portion of the work, causing a two-month minimum delay to the project, moving the anticipated end date to March 2012.
In December 2011, Synergy received notice that the curtain wall subcontractor hired for the project had a $500,000 IRS tax lien and was unable to remain in business, according to the construction outline.
After a two-month search for a replacement subcontractor, a 15-week allotment was needed for fabrication, shipping and installation of materials, delaying the project’s estimated end date to June 2012.
In June, further complications added to the project when Puget Sound Energy was unable to convert overhead power to underground power for the facility. In the construction outline, KCLS said PSE was unable to provide power without major revisions to the city’s grid.
Interior work cannot proceed on the project — such as fire-alarm installation, interior electrical wiring and completion of the elevators — until permanent power is complete, which is expected by mid-July.
“The community of Newcastle has been underserved for a lot of years,” Daniel said. “We know that the minute we open the doors we’re going to be swamped … we’ve heard for years how many people want this.
Support takes shape
Repeated setbacks haven’t slowed down the work of some of the library’s most vocal proponents — the newly formed Friends of the Newcastle Library group.
“Newcastle has waited for so long for its library,” Friends President Julia Hunter said. “We’re chomping at the bit. It’s different than it used to be now that we’re living in the days of the Internet. We provide a lot of access for online information, too. A library, to me, is one of the most basic resources for people to continue lifelong learning in any community.”
Book sales will be the Friends’ primary way of raising money to support programs, including programs for children, teens and adults, at the Newcastle Library.
A call out to residents for book donations will be announced by the group by September, Hunter said. Donations and gently-used books, CDs and DVDs will also be accepted at the KCLS booth during Newcastle Days on Sept. 8. Residents can learn more about the construction progress and the mobile library will be available for residents to check out books.
“We know we want books in good condition — not musty ones, not magazines, not old textbooks more than five years old,” Hunter said.
After electing officials, the Friends group is busy setting policy goals and encouraging Newcastle residents to become members of the group. Membership forms will be available at Newcastle Days.
Aside from Hunter, Treasurer Carol Simpson, Vice President Russell Segner, Secretary Sue Beverly and board member Beatriz Wallace round out the elected officers for the group.
Residents are encouraged to get involved by attending the next meeting of the Friends of Newcastle Library at 10 a.m. July 7 in the meeting room of Fire Station No. 9, 12412 Newcastle Way.
On the Web
For library updates and construction photos, go to www.kcls.org/bond/newcastle. Get involved in the Friends of the Newcastle Library group by emailing NewcastleLibraryFriends@comcast.net.