The East Bernard Branch Library is flush with plumbing problems that will have to be repaired before work can be done to restore the building’s foundation.

So urgent are the repairs to the building that Wharton County Library Director Elene Gedevani asked the county commissioners to squeeze her budget to find the extra money needed to repair cracked drain pipes.

At their Dec. 12 meeting, the Wharton County Commissioners Court voted to award a $37,750 bid to Atlas Foundation to repair the foundation of the branch library.

“Since that time, we’ve learned that a significant amount of the existing plumbing under the structure is leaking and Atlas cannot shoot their polyurethane under the slab with the wet, leaky pipes and the wet soil,” County Judge Phillip Spenrath said at the Feb. 12 session of commissioners court.

He said Atlas provided a separate cost estimate of $47,450 to repair the pipes, which would raise the total cost to $85,200. That is more than double the $40,000 commissioner set aside in this year’s budget to repair the foundation.

Spenrath said the original bid calls for installing 36 exterior pilings and then drilling interior holes and injecting polyurethane to level the structure. Before that could happen, the plumbing had to be checked to make sure there were no leaks. There were several, mostly in a back employee restroom and at two sinks in the building. There are still public restrooms at the front of the building that employees can use.

After talking about options with building consultant Paul Shannon, Spenrath narrowed alternatives to three options: Do nothing and postpone the repairs until full funding is secured; permanently cut the water off and abandon the lines to the employee restroom; or “build up the interior base foundation of the current employee toilet seat approximately four inches, so the toilet would raise up four inches above the existing flooring, thereby placing the needed pipe connections in that spacing.”

Shannon spoke to the court and explained what happened.

“So a plumbing test was done and they and they ran cameras down there and there’s multiple breaks in the cast iron drain lines that are underneath the slab. So this, before we fix the foundation, we got to fix the plumbing. And the bad thing about fixing the plumbing is they’ve got to tunnel under the slab. And that’s the majority of the cost of the $47,000 for the plumbing fix is you’ve got to tunnel all throughout those drain lines and replace them and then backfill what you took out of there,” he said.

He also noted the front restrooms have plumbing problems as well, but not as serious. He and Spenrath also noted that the foundation and plumbing problems are caused by shifting soils in the area where the library is located.

One of the commissioners asked if they could fix the plumbing this year and budget the foundation repairs for next year. Spenrath said they could, but they’re still $7,000 short. That’s when Library Director Elene Gedevani spoke up.

“Can we squeeze my budget?” she asked. “I mean to have the $7,000 for whatever is extra to have from maintenance and building I can give, and from publications, which is the biggest amount that I have.”

With that option on the table, the commissioners voted unanimously to spend the $40,000 they have budgeted and to take $7,000 from the library budget to repair the plumbing this year and then budget for foundation repair next year.

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