What’s Happening | Robesonian | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise
LUMBERTON — Patrons at the Lumberton location of the Robeson County Public Library system will see activity not directly related to reading, learning and fun over the course of the next six months.
The activity will be much-needed repairs to the exterior of the John P. Stedman building, located at 101 N. Chestnut St. Work began this week to replace the current exterior panel system, which is original to the building that opened in 1969.
According to Bob Fisher, retired RCPL director of nearly 30 years, the need for replacing the panel system was first discussed during the early 1990s when renovation planning for the main library building was underway.
“When the renovation began in 2000, some changes in the panel framing were noticed and brought to a contractor’s attention,” said Katie Fountain, current RCPL director. “At that time, the contractor said that the panel system was stable and it was not replaced due to the high cost it would add to the project.”
But over the years, and after two major hurricanes — Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence two years later — the issue with the paneling was exacerbated. Panels now appear “warped or fallen” and framing has become “more distorted” in areas, Fountain said.
“Due to these changes, we have experienced minor leaks along a few walls and ceiling tiles inside the building,” the director said.
The most pronounced area of damage is the paint in a corner of the computer lab.
“Thankfully, the leaks have not compromised our library collections or equipment,” Fountain said. “Repairs to the interior walls and paint will be planned once the new panel system is installed, which will solve the leaking issue.”
Discussions about replacing the panels continued over the years and the City of Lumberton began allocating funds for the library to save for capital repairs. The city and Robeson County governments jointly support building maintenance and repairs for the main library, and both entities approved the remaining funding needed for the project, which totaled $363,800.
“We are very grateful that The City of Lumberton and Robeson County approved the remaining funding needed for the project this fiscal year,” Fountain said.
The library building, which is about 18,000 square feet in size, was designed by Elizabeth B. Lee, A.I.A, Architect. T.A. Nye & Sons was the general contractor.
In the past decade a few roofing projects have been undertaken, but the the last major renovation to the library was completed about 20 years ago when the design of the library was changed significantly.
“During that renovation project, the new Children’s Library was established, which was named in honor of Horace E. Stacy Jr., who dedicated his time to the renovation,” Fountain said.
The old Lumberton Trading Company building, which was donated years earlier to the Friends of the Library by Beverly and Leroy Townsend, became the new Osterneck Auditorium. The current Osterneck Auditorium and the Exploration Station are housed in the Townsend Building, honoring Beverly and Leroy Townsend.
“Other improvements during that renovation included improved landscaping, a new sidewalk, new carpet and paint, additional doorways and other interior improvements,” Fountain said. “From what I have read and heard about this renovation, it was a massive undertaking for the library and it was well supported by the community.”
That is what is happening this time around.
“A project of this magnitude only comes to fruition when the people involved are dedicated to the vision and persevere through setbacks and challenges,” Fountain said. “As the current library director, I feel honored to be a part of seeing this project through completion. There have been so many people involved in getting us to this point.”
Fountain thanked the current Lumberton City Council and administration, the Robeson County Board of Commissioners and administration, and past and present library trustees and directors for the work they’ve done on this project.
“This renovation, in addition to keeping our building secure for the community to enjoy, will contribute to the beautification and revitalization of downtown Lumberton,” Fountain said.
The library trustees have secured architectural services from the Becker Morgan Group throughout the life of the project. Metcon, Inc. is the general contractor for the panel renovation. Macsons is their subcontractor who is handling demolition of the old panel system, which is being taken down and disposed of properly.
The library is still open to patrons but access to certain areas will be limited at times.
“We estimate the project will be completed by mid-October,” Fountain said.