Toxigenic mould and rot found at the Stoke Library. Photos: NCC.

Stoke’s rotting library

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Stoke Library has become Nelson City Council’s latest headache after decay, rot and toxigenic mould was discovered in the roof beams and cavity – with the possibility of more being revealed.

The problem could be so bad that a council asset manager suggested to councillors at Thursday’s community services committee meeting that the 25-year-old building may need a “complete overhaul”.

The issue only came to light a few weeks ago during some maintenance repairs by contractors, which revealed signs of water entering the building.

A weather tightness report undertaken by an independent surveyor was presented to council, revealing there is decay to the structural beams that provide support to the building’s roof.

There was also visible timber rot and mould, and laboratory analysis identified brown rot on the frame and plywood sheathing and Stachybotrys toxigenic mould in the plasterboard.

The report says the roof beam sections would need to be fully replaced, along with the wall below, and steel added to support the beam.

Roger Ball, group manager community services, told Nelson Weekly that the preliminary investigation reveals the repairs would cost at least $300,000 – but this figure could change.

An ‘invasive investigation’ took place on Saturday to confirm if there are wider issues and material has been forwarded to the laboratory.

Results are expected back by the end of this month and council officers will be reporting back to the committee on 30 August with further costs, details and options.

Property, parks and facilities asset manager, Andrew Petheram, says the mould has been treated, sprayed and does not pose a threat to staff or customers, with library services continuing as normal.

“We believe what was there is dead. We’ve sealed it to stop further moisture from entering and checking it regularly to ensure it doesn’t start growing again.”

A structural engineer has deemed the library structurally safe internally and has been made safe externally with scaffolding to support the extended roof beam.

Andrew told councillors that it might be time to think about a total redevelopment of the library.

The current building was constructed in 1993 and $2.5m is included in the Long Term Plan in 2021-2025 to allow for refurbishment.

“We could go in and do a short patch up or we could do a complete overhaul. But given we’ve been questioning the future of the library and we have funds in the Long Term Plan, maybe it’s appropriate that we address that at this time,” he said.

The surveyors report said the library exhibits the common flaws of leaking buildings, which were prevalent in the mid-1990s. It also said that council and Nelmac staff informed that they have been attending to various leaks around the building for several years.

“There have been knowing leaks to the building by the building owner,” the report read.
Roger Ball, Group Manager Community Service told the Weekly that “minor leaks have been attended to in the past, but the extent of the damage was not apparent until scaffolding was erected and external cladding removed.”

Council chief executive Pat Dougherty wants to stress to the public that library is still open and safe to use.

“The safety of our staff and the safety of the public using the building would be paramount and if we had concerns then we would be closing the library or parts of the library.”