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Spencer officials say falling lead-based paint chips force library to close

By Steve Huffman
shuffman@salisburypost.com
SPENCER ó The town of Spencer’s library is closed and won’t reopen until problems with flaking lead paint are rectified.
Members of the town’s board of aldermen voted during their monthly meeting Tuesday to close the facility. The vote came after Jonette Powell, president of the Spencer Woman’s Club, presented the town four books for the library.
After making her presentation, Powell asked aldermen when flaking paint in the library would be cleaned from the floors. Her question sparked more concern than Powell apparently anticipated, aldermen expressing worries about a building owned by the town being littered with flakes of lead-based paint.
They referred to the building as a “public hazard” and moved immediately to close it.
Everyone involved agreed the building that houses the library is in bad shape. Efforts to raise money to refurbish the facility have not been successful.
Still, Powell pleaded with aldermen not to ignore the facility.
“Don’t let this building go by the wayside,” she asked.
The building that houses the library is the cornerstone of Library Park. For years it was Spencer’s only school.
The town has operated a library out of the building for years. It is not affiliated with the Rowan County Public Library system.
On Tuesday, Mayor Jody Everhart said it has been estimated that it’ll cost more than $2.5 million to restore the building. Over the years, others who have attempted to revitalize the facility have put the price tag at closer to $1 million.
Town Manager Larry Smith said Tuesday the best estimate is that it’ll cost “several, several thousands” of dollars to repair the library’s problems with peeling and flaking paint.
After voting to close the building, aldermen said it will remain closed until the problems with the paint are abated. When that happens, they said, is anyone’s guess.
Alderman Scott Benfield said the problem with the flaking paint stems from moisture seeping into the building. The structure is not climate-controlled.
Benfield and others agreed the building in its current condition isn’t safe and should remain closed until repairs are made.
“Until then, I guess we’re just going to have to shut the door,” Benfield said.
Alderman Donnie Hinson promised Powell that the town won’t forget the building.
“We’re going to try our best to get that library fixed,” he said.
In other matters handled Tuesday, board members:
– Welcomed David Smith to the board. Smith was sworn in by retired Superior Court Judge Thomas Seay. Smith was the seventh-place finisher in 2007 in a race where the top six vote-getters were elected to the board. He replaces Ken Womble, who moved out of town.
– Honored Womble with a plaque for his years of service on the board. He served from 2005 until February.
– Heard from Jim Gobble and Craig Powers concerning a proposed Interstate Business District at the intersection of Interstate 85 and Long Ferry Road. Aldermen were told the intent of the district is to attract motorists to stop and lead them into Spencer. “We’re definitely going to get something that will be a good fit with the town of Spencer,” Gobble said of the district.
– Heard from Mayor Everhart who said members of the Spencer Jaycees had inquired about the possibility of the town going in with the club to build a combination meeting hall/recreation room. The Jaycees’ clubhouse was destroyed by a fire earlier this year. Everhart said he didn’t see the town partnering with the club for such a project.
“We’ve got things of our own to take care of without bringing in any more,” he said. “I don’t think it’s time to spend the taxpayers’ money.”
– Heard from Police Chief Robert Bennett, who said that Sgt. Eric Ennis has been appointed to the Prevent Child Abuse Rowan Child Advocacy Center.
– Heard a presentation from Beth Nance, who is planning a mural at Eighth Street Ballpark.
– Heard from representatives of the Hometown Holidays committee who reminded aldermen that a fund-raising raffle is taking place with proceeds to help pay for holiday lights for the downtown this Christmas season. Tickets are $1 apiece and available at Debbie Barnhardt Jewelry and Spencer Home Supply. More than 50 prizes will be awarded with the drawing held the night of April 25 at the Spencer Moose Lodge.
– Heard from Town Manager Smith that business proposals are being accepted concerning the old Spencer Fire Department on Fourth Street. Smith said the goal is to accept a business proposal for the site by Sept. 8. He said town leaders are hoping for at least two proposals.

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