Fixes on way for shoddy heating

ENCINITAS — City Council unanimously agreed to pay for extensive repairs of the library’s heating and cooling system on April 20.
The much-heralded downtown library building will need an overhaul of its heating and air-conditioning system because of shoddy initial construction according to public works employees who requested the action from the council.
In fact, Bill Wilson, city management analyst, said three issues had come to the forefront and should be fixed immediately to avoid any further deterioration and eventual higher repair bills.
Wilson said the most pressing issue is the air control system. Some of the system’s pipes leak, its air pressure is “inadequate” and the computer software that controls the system keeps some areas too cold and others too hot. Library staff has to manually control the air system, which increases energy use and costs as well according to Wilson. He estimated the energy cost to be at $75,000 per year.
The windows that were supposed to open automatically in good weather can’t do so because contractors failed to install all the parts and connect them, which causes an improper balance in the building’s airflow.
The heavily used library receives approximately 440,000 visitors per year.
Public Works Director Larry Watt said multiple leaks in the building’s deteriorating piping system are caused by ill-fitting pipes and connectors.
Watt said the issues would be tackled in two phases. The replacement of copper piping will cost the city up to $143,000 and would begin immediately. The other two issues would be handled during a second phase costing approximately $270,000. Watt said he would bring the second request before the council after the next fiscal year begins in July.
The staff pointed to initial shoddy workmanship as the cause of the problems. The system started deteriorating right after its one-year warranty ran out. Watt said the system’s problems weren’t evident immediately after construction concluded in 2008. It wasn’t until the system’s warranty expired that the equipment really started failing Watt said.
The initial contractor, C. E. Wylie Construction Co. of San Diego, is now out of business as are many of the subcontractors. The city engaged outside legal counsel to review its options for recovery of any costs associated with the repair. Staff requested permission to aggressively pursue “cost recovery.”
Donna Westbrook, an Encinitas resident, took issue with the lack of responsibility for the library maintenance and construction. “It took three years to figure out the system doesn’t work … I can’t believe it,” she said. Westbrook asked who approved the library construction. “I know the one who is really responsible is the city manager, who is supposed to report back to the council,” she declared. “How much for the second phase?” she asked.
“The Public Works Department takes control of the building once it’s online,” Watt told the speaker. But the council agreed that the contractor duped the city.
Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar wondered why the problems were not found earlier. “Sometimes unfortunately you get what you pay for,” she said. However, she said the project manager should be held accountable. “I’m certainly not pleased but understand the situation we’re in moving forward,” she said.
“The public does expect accountability,” Councilwoman Teresa Barth said. “This is something that has to be fixed,” she said, adding that the heating and cooling system not only impacts the library visitors and staff but also the materials in the building including the library’s books, artwork and its piano.
“It sounds like someone just took in their old parts and stuck them together,” Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan said regarding the uneven pipes and multiple fittings. “We did rely on expertise that we admitted we didn’t have,” she said, adding that she supported going after the contractor to recover costs.
“Sad but true,” Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks said. He applauded the staff’s insistent action to rectify the problem.


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