AC repair delayed; library still closing early when interior temps get too high

The Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library System’s main branch in the civic center is en route to being cooler, but as the summer’s heat and humidity hang on against more agreeable but slowly developing fall conditions, the three-story facility is continuing to be hampered with an interrupted schedule.

City Maintenance Director Steve Stephens said the library’s air-conditioning chiller failed Wednesday, Oct. 2. A Carrier cooling system inspector from Little Rock determined the air conditioner’s chiller barrel needs to be replaced and estimated the expense at $39,704.25. At the time, a chiller barrel was in stock within the state.

The city council on Monday night unanimously approved an emergency funding appropriation to cover half of the cost, with the library absorbing the remainder. But since, library Director Michael Sawyer said Wednesday, the chiller barrel was utilized elsewhere.

“We don’t know when we’ll get the part in,” Sawyer said, “and we don’t know when the repairs will be complete. But I know Carrier is working to make everything happen as soon as possible.”

Sawyer said that because air within the library is stagnated, internal temperatures have risen to as high as 83 degrees even when outdoor temperatures were in the 60s. Fans have been placed throughout the facility to help circulate the air and make conditions as cool as possible, Sawyer said.

“The temperature has gotten unpleasant at times,” Sawyer said. “For the most part, people have been understanding of the problem, but we have received some complaints.”

Sawyer said he hopes patrons remember that library employees are also uncomfortable when temperatures and humidity increase.

“We want our Pine Bluff patrons to remember that if need be, they can use our White Hall and Watson Chapel branches, which are air conditioned,” he said.

The main branch’s hours have been adjusted repeatedly since the air conditioner’s breakdown, and Sawyer expects more of the same over the coming days.

“We may close earlier than normal this weekend,” he said.

Sawyer said patrons should telephone the branch at 870-534-4802 before coming there until the situation changes.

“We don’t want anyone to be inconvenienced by arriving and realizing that we’ve had to close early,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sawyer said he’s been impressed by the fast, positive response to the library’s problem by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and the council.

“We are extremely grateful to the mayor and council for the funding to help with this matter,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have an understanding and supportive city government.”