Millions added to cost of downtown library renovation

Problems discovered during renovations of the Stanley A. Milner library building are expected to cost the city millions.

'You never know what you’re going to find,' contractor says after finding issues with Stanley A. Milner site

The Stanley Milner library is expected to close early in 2017 to allow for $62.5 million renovations. It's expected to reopen in 2020. (Gareth Hampshire)

Problems discovered during renovations of the Stanley A. Milner library building are expected to cost the city millions.

In a presentation to Edmonton city council Wednesday, the project's contractors said they discovered that the building's heating system was outdated and found abandoned mechanical and electrical equipment in the roof. There was also exposed rebar in the concrete at the building's base.

Adam Laughlin, deputy city manager of integrated infrastructure services, said it was difficult to see these problems when the building was first being inspected.

"It's really hard to go in and investigate and unearth some of the things you find behind the walls or in the floors while the building is in use," Laughlin told council. "You never know what you're going to find."  

Overall costs for all of the renovations are being negotiated with the contractors, but Laughlin said the cost is expected to be in the millions.

Laughlin said a new budget will be presented to council once the negotiations are over.

The budget for the reconstruction of the library was already increased last fall to $69 million from the original $62.5 million approved in the 2014 budget.

Early this year, contractors found hazardous material in the building, including asbestos.

Added costs absorbed by budget

The library was built in 1967 to celebrate the Canadian Centennial.

Mayor Don Iveson said he isn't surprised there have been unforeseen challenges with the construction.

"I've renovated a couple of kitchens and old houses in my day and this is exactly what happens when you open up a 50-year-old wall," he told reporters after the council meeting.

"You find stuff in there that does not make sense and it costs you more to fix."

Edmonton Public Library CEO Pilar Martinez said the cost will not be assumed by the public.

The library put a hiring freeze in place last year and reshuffled many of their Milner library staff to different locations within the city, allowing the library to save enough money to cover the cost of the repairs, Martinez said.

"We knew it's been a tight budget all along so we've done certain things to mitigate the funding challenges," she said.

Martinez said the construction challenges should not affect the quality of the new design.

"We want to ensure Edmontonians that they will have a space that they're really proud of, that it's an iconic building," she said. "At the end of the day, we're taking the long-term view."  

The library branch will continue to operate out of its temporary Enterprise Square location while construction is underway. The new branch is still expected to open by 2020.