Normalcy seems near for El Centro some two years after the Easter earthquake damaged the library, treatment plants and a reservoir tank.
But the 100-year-old library building that was red-tagged soon after the earthquake is on its way to being relocated next to the Imagine School site, in a 12,296-square-foot building space.
“We will probably be moving around the first part of June,” library director Roland Banks said. “It may be sooner, it may be later,” he said, but his hopes are to be moved in by the time summer reading programs start.
The building lacked the proper infrastructure to be a library, so renovations are being done.
“They are putting in restrooms, (an) office and the things that we need,” Banks said.
A new air conditioner and new ceilings are also part of the renovation.
In the meantime, the library has been running from a room in the Community Center, affecting some 1,400 library members.
Summer reading programs, which averaged between 300 and 400 attendees before, went down to about 150 last year, Banks said.
Once moved, “we hope to have everything back to normal,” he said. “It might take a few months, but we should get back to normal. That is our goal.”
But the new library isn’t a permanent location. The lease for the building will last at least five years. This will give the city enough time to decide whether to fix the old building, build a new one or permanently relocate, according to Banks.
A decision on the building is likely to come before the lease expires.
Studies done by Public Works noted asbestos, potential molds, and a building expansion from the 1920s which creates issues for grant funding.
On Tuesday, staff made the recommendation that the building be torn down.
The building is too old and there are too many unknowns, said Public Works Director Terry Hagen.
The library board will make a decision on the matter in mid-April and come back to the council for final approval.
El Centro’s water tank was also damaged during the earthquake, said Hagen. The earthquake ripped the top off, he said. “It opened it like a can of beans.”
And though the 5 million gallon tank was out of service “for quite a while,” Hagen said, the tank has “been back online for several months now.”
The old water treatment plant, which isn’t in service since the new water plant came online, also took damage but has been repaired, he said.
But “there is still some work to do” when it comes to the wastewater treatment plant, Hagen said. The plant is operating “fine” and the city has adequate capacity, he said, “but there are repairs to be done.”
These repairs are under design and expected to be done within the next year.
Meanwhile, El Centro, Heber and Imperial have also been busy preparing an emergency plan that would interconnect these three cities’ pipelines.
The Imperial Integrated Regional Water Management Plan would supply water to any of these cities interchangeably during an emergency if need be, according to Hagen. “We don’t have the money yet,” he said, but cities are already seeking the funding.
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com
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