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Infrastructure problems flood St. Joe Library children’s dept.

ST. JOE, Mich. -- After February’s heavy rainfall, a puzzling infrastructure problem has left the Maud Preston Palenske Memorial Library in St. Joe, Michigan without its children’s department and with questions about funding future repairs.

“You can see all the [electrical] cords,” said Stephanie Masin, the library’s director. “You can hear how loud the fans are. That’s partially why we closed the department. It pretty much comes up right in this crease here. And you can see it just forms a lake and it has extended out into other parts of the children’s area.”

While the main floor of the public library in St. Joe is expectedly quiet, the same cannot be said for the children’s department in the basement.

The books have been saved – and programming is happening in other parts of the library – but fans are still roaring to keep standing water and fungus on the carpet from spreading.

“It’s incredibly frustrating not only for me, but for my entire staff and for the community,” Masin said. “I mean, nobody wants to shut down their children’s department.”

Masin said this problem is not new.

The expansive children’s department was added on to the original building in the 1970s. But faulty construction left one corner of the basement with moisture problems.

The library paid for repairs last October, but now this is happening.

Masin said the library faces over $1 million of necessary repairs over the next few years for this project and others.

The city of St. Joe already charges residents a .68 mil to help fund the library, but Masin said it’s not enough.

St. Joseph Charter Township also supplies a flat rate each year for the library.

City leaders could raise the millage to 1 mil, which Mayor Michael Garey said would provide the library with another $48,000 in funding each year.

“When you look at other Class 4 libraries in Berrien County, we are the lowest assessment of all the other Class 4 libraries in the county,” Masin said.

Garey discussed funding the library in a phone interview on Thursday: “The current formula, even if we give the maximum, does not work. So that’s the dilemma. The solution is a district library where they can establish their own millage rate after research of their needs, both operations and improvement wise. That’s the problem, and that’s the solution.”

The focus, for now, is reopening the children’s department.

“Every time we try to get ahead of the ball, we haven’t been able to do that because we haven’t had the funding to do it,” Masin said.

The library’s board met Thursday afternoon to discuss potential repair jobs for the basement. Masin said, after the meeting ended, that the board didn’t make any decisions and asked to look over a few more options.

The children’s department will remain closed for at least three more weeks.

Garey said city leaders will start planning their next budget in April.

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