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Last week a letter cheered the reopening of our library, but then went on to praise the director, the library board and the prime contractor, among others, "for bringing the project in on time and on budget." Excuse me. For openers, I'm dubious about the "on-budget" assertion simply because few significant public projects are completed within original cost projections. Typically the contract discovers unanticipated problems along the way requiring additional appropriations. As to timely completion: it just didn't happen, given the fact that we were initially told that this would be a one-year project.

A review of the library board's minutes from May 16, 2001, the most recent minutes available, back to November 17, 1999 is revealing. In passing, I note that official minutes of proceedings of large corporate bodies, private and public, are opaque by design, telling as little as possible about problematic matters under discussion.

On Feb. 16, 2000, the minutes report a successful groundbreaking ceremony. However, it was close to a year later that the first reference to a completion date is noted on the record. On Dec. 20, 2000, the contractor's representative reported (to an anxious board?) that the project would be substantially completed by the end of March, 2001.

In January and February it slipped to mid-April. In April, it became mid-May, and in May, the last minutes available, it became late June. The minutes do not mention any questions of the contractor's representative regarding ever changing completion date.

Presumably in reliance on the June completion date, the satellite library in Manorhaven Park was closed with the unthinkable result that the community was without any library service for almost the entire month of July.

Here it's worth mentioning that the staff did a solid job and the satellite served us better than could have been anticipated. But the main library was sorely missed.

The public is entitled to some answers.

Did the contract provide for penalties in case of lateness in completion of the library? Were any penalties assessed?

Finally, we are told that the failure to open on July 2 was due to some failure to comply with the fire code. Whose responsibility was it to assure that we were in compliance?

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