When a furnace burst, coating much of Edgartown’s library building in atomized oil at the beginning of December, director Felicia Cheney thought she and her staff would be in and out of emergency digs in the town hall selectmen’s meeting room within a fortnight.
But a drawn-out insurance claim process has left the books and artwork gathering dust on top of oil in the North Water street library for the seventh week, and the librarians have no definite end in sight.
They have made the most of their improvised surroundings, working only with newly bought stock and returns, and today the governmental space has a decidedly different feel.
Current newspapers and magazines line a coffee table at the center of the room. The former selectmen’s table is lined with check-out computers and piles of novels, DVDs and a dozen reading glasses hanging from a bright yellow bucket.
“Maybe it’s so cozy because it wasn’t cozy before,” said Ms. Cheney, sitting at her temporary workstation in the corner of the selectmen’s meeting room early last week. “But it’s cozier than the other place. And it’s brighter.”
Working in the temporary space also has given the librarians perspective on how they can improve conditions in the library when they finally get back in.
“The wallpaper in there is so hideous, we want to get rid of that,” Ms. Cheney said.
Even so, she is keen to get back to North Water street.
“We kind of feel like sad sacks in here, it would be nice to have our space back,” Ms. Cheney said. “We don’t have the stuff people should have. And there’s absolutely no privacy.”
Time is a factor in terms of the clean-up process at the library, where the sooty residue threatens to damage contents of the building. The incident caused by the faulty furnace is referred to as puffback.
Puffback results when a burst oil furnace is left undisturbed long enough to create pressure in an enclosed space, so that when released a toxic build-up is dispersed, clinging to objects in the surrounding area — which in this case could include books, computer equipment and valuable art work.
The insurance claim has proven a sticky business, too.
Massamont Insurance brokers cover the library and by extension Edgartown in such an event and are obliged to finance all processes required to return library to “pre-loss condition.”
For this job, Massamont employed the services of PES Associates (whose letterhead touts Proven Performance Extensive Experience Superior Solutions) in Dedham, after Massamont deemed insufficient a nine-page report prepared by Dr. Bill Vaughan of Nauset Environmental Services of East Orleans.
PES filed a two-page letter and report, which was not available until Jan. 6. The report concluded that only two out of 14 sampled areas indicated “widespread or highly concentrated release of soot.”
The findings conflicted with the earlier Nauset report. Discussions on what cleaning processes will be covered are continuing.
Public claims adjuster David Burke, who represents Edgartown and the library in this case, has been frustrated by the process.
“The PES report was vague with little or no supporting documentation,” he said earlier this week.
Mr. Burke, chairman of the library trustees David Blackburn and representatives of Massamont are due to meet again early next week.
Meanwhile, Ms. Cheney is wary of starting work on the building for fear that the town will not be reimbursed for the expenses. There is also a dispute over the choice of cleaning company for the job. The choice is ultimately made by the library trustees.
According to Ms. Cheney, the insurers are pushing for a firm, called Servicemaster, which plans to simply clean areas and items — such as the acoustical ceiling tiles — that Nauset recommended should be replaced.
But if another company, Munters, which has a contract with the state board of library commissioners, is used, the town will be eligible for a fund of $25,000 to pay for expenses which are not covered by the insurance company.
However, Ms. Cheney now plans to move forward with removing the artwork from the building, much of which is highly valuable, she says, and at risk of damage while still in the building. Once removed, the artwork will be sent to a company in Williamstown for cleaning.
She is confident that once the building cleanup begins, the library will be clean and ready to reopen within 15 business days.