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Historic library set for wiring, other upgrades

Aug 2, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Upgrades described as timely and necessary are being planned for the historic Carnegie Library in Lander.

Fremont County Library Systems director Matt Nojonen said the 103-year-old building requires "a lot of wiring work," which it will get during the nearly $575,000 renovation project that is set to start soon.

"We're going to do some real serious electric work to replace wiring," he said.

The project has gained added urgency since the Lander Community Center was destroyed by fire in June. Electrical problems were cited as the cause of the fire.

The Fremont County Commission has approved funding for the Carnegie work using the excess revenue from the 1 percent sales tax voters had approved to upgrade the Lander library facilities.

"We should have the project started very, very soon with the goal of finishing by the end of the year," Nojonen said.

The result will be a building cured of problems associated with its aging roof, structure and ventilation system.

"The main goal was at the end of this project we will have a fully functional building," Nojonen said. "It is definitely a space that is heavily used for community events of all kinds. We had 6,000 different people in that building in 2011: everything from theater groups to music recitals to summer reading programs of hundreds of kids."

Nojonen said construction leader SDI Contractors of Lander and its manager, Dennis Seeley, have worked on similar projects in the past..

"One project that's similar or related would be the work that they did on the old post office here in Lander when they refurbished and reconditioned that building for use by CES," he said. "That one I find particularly interesting because it's related to the historical aspect of ours."

Commissioner Dennis Christensen, the liaison to the library department for the board, also noted SDI's work on other county projects including the Help for Health Hospice facility in Riverton.

"We do have a history with their work and workmanship and integrity in the county," Christensen said. "It's a historic building in Lander. It deserves to be saved. There's a lot of history in that building. After that many years it's got a few problems, but structurally it's pretty sound."

Among the improvements will be a new roof and repairs to the entrance stairs, which are "really tilting," Nojonen said.

"The exterior will be cleaned and sealed because we have leaks into the building coming through the masonry," he said.

The building will get additional enhancements to help in case of fire.

"On the interior we're going to have a new sprinkler system; it doesn't have one now. Given what happened to the community center, this is a good thing," Nojonen said.

Plans also call for a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system throughout the facility.

"All of the historic windows and woodwork and other interior features are going to be cleaned, painted and restored with the object of brightening it up and fixing it up but maintaining the historic character of the interior," he said.

The building will be out of commission during the upgrades.

"We won't be able to use it during the construction period. We emptied it out and got it all prepped and ready to go actually two months ago," Nojonen said.

The project marks the final phase of the ballot question approved by voters in the November 2006 general election that included improvements to Lander's library facilities.

Lander's Carnegie Library opened on March 1, 1909, with a $15,000 made available from Andrew Carnegie. The facility debuted with 427 books, 17 periodicals, eight school journals and five magazines.

"It wasn't until 1911 the catalog was completed and materials could be circulated," Nojonen said.

Lander's main library building will continue to house the collection materials, while the Carnegie will serve primarily as a gathering place.

"For the historic preservation and the safety and, above all, the continued particular use of the facility, this is a great step," Nojonen said. "This building will be solid for another 100 years."

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