If your windshield wipers swiped furiously to clear dime-sized splats of snow on your drive to the library, what would you think if you arrived to find both sets of double doors open wide, feel heat blasting your face, and hear the furnace labouring full tilt?
That was the scene as I entered the Terrace library December 23 at noon.
I couldn’t trust my senses. I was horrified to witness tax dollars so callously wasted. I pictured the library’s gas meter counting a blur of gigajoules. Was the city determined to supply warmth to anyone carousing about the band shell? Was the library actually heating with the doors wide open? My question to a staff member confirmed the doors had been constantly open that way for several days and could remain so for much of the rest of Tuesday.
The library had reported the door problem to city maintenance several days earlier, but the city mechanic assigned to effect the required repair was not available.
The library’s follow-up call to the city Tuesday morning had spurred the city to phone All West Glass.
Library staff was hoping an All West Glass electrician might show up later that day. Until then, some staff were wearing winter boots to keep their feet warm.
What is the average daily cost for heating the library on a 32°F (0 C) winter day with the front doors closed? With doors open? Multiply that by steady furnace output from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. What is that broken door costing taxpayers for a single day? This has been the situation for several days. Unbelievable. Beyond comprehension.
Now, I understand finding a qualified repairman during the holiday season can be difficult. Maintenance staff, too, deserve a few days off with family. But at times of dire need – and being forced to heat the entire downtown including George Little Park qualifies in my book as a dire need – there are private companies one can call.
And if no one is available locally, phone Smithers, Kitimat, Prince George. I’m betting bringing in someone from beyond city limits or paying someone to work through the night would be cheaper – and present far better optics to library patrons and taxpayers – than continuing to push heat out the front doors all day long for several days because the automatic doors are stuck open.
A stopgap measure would have been to hire a doorman to manually open and close the doors to serve patrons. Or re-route patrons through the Art Gallery entrance.
This door problem is longstanding. Years ago, I was told, someone got mad and kicked the door. It has never worked properly since despite numerous repair attempts. If the vandal who originally kicked and damaged the door was identified, and if that person was charged, and if that person appeared before a judge, in sentencing did the judge take into account the cost of repairing the damaged door?
I’ll bet not.
So the taxpayer is left paying staff time periodically for someone with a toolbox to have another go at permanently restoring the door to service. So far no repair has held for more than a few months, if my witnessing of a man with a toolbox every once in a while is any indication.
Perhaps it’s time to replace the automatic doors with swinging doors from a decommissioned federal prison. Or contract a local welder to custom build swinging doors of solid steel. Would miffed locals try to crowbar them off their hinges?
Patrons and taxpayers can be forgiven for questioning not only council’s sanity but their dedication to trimming the city’s budget so long as they put up with periodic makeshift repair of the library’s “automatic” front doors and heating of the great outdoors.