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Bad plumbing fails to close long-awaited new library

Employees and customers get by with portable restrooms. "It was important for us not to close,'' the chief librarian says.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 4, 2001


CARROLLWOOD -- A regional library finally opened in Carrollwood, but not without a few glitches.

Plumbing problems forced the county to close the bathrooms for three days over the last two weeks.

The library never closed, but the staff and customers had to use portable bathrooms while crews repaired the pipes.

"It was important for us not to close, even though we consider not having restrooms an inconvenience," said Janet Lorenzo, chief librarian, who oversees six county branches.

The Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library opened Feb. 14 at Bearss Avenue and Smitter Road. The $3.5-million building replaced the Northwest Regional Library in Northdale, which had air quality problems stemming from a leaky roof and mold.

The staff was so eager to move into the new building that most didn't complain about the bathroom problems, Lorenzo said. Employees had the option of using the Manor Care facilities down the street or leaving whenever they needed to.

Most of the money to build the library came from the Austin Davis-WD Charities foundation. The organization was started by the founders of the Winn-Dixie grocery chain.

The foundation was intent on opening the library on Feb. 14 as a Valentine Day's gift to the community, Lorenzo said. The county was happy to oblige.

The plumbing problems arose three days later on Feb. 17, when the staff noticed sewage leaking from the building into the parking lot. Contractors came out immediately, but couldn't fix it right away.

The bathrooms remained roped off for the next few days, although the library was closed one day for off-site staff training. The restrooms reopened Feb. 20.

Problems resurfaced Monday, Feb. 26. Crews put a camera down the pipes and found waste had built up on the couplings that connect the pipes. By Wednesday, the toilets were fixed.

The situation appears resolved and is not expected to return, Lorenzo said. The contractor covered the cost of repairs and Port-O-Lets.

The only other item unfinished is the paving of the library entrance on Smitter. Cars have access along a dirt road, but the county plans to pave it.

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