Mould may shut down Teslin library

Teslin’s library may soon close because of complaints of mould within the building. Health and safety inspectors are assessing the condition…

Teslin’s library may soon close because of complaints of mould within the building.

Health and safety inspectors are assessing the condition of the decrepit building this week, following the librarian’s complaint of headaches, which she deems symptoms of a mould allergy.

The Yukon government has known the library needs to move to a new location for more than a year. Despite this, “little or nothing” has been done, said Wes Wirth, chair of the library board.

Faced with safety concerns, the board now must decide whether to shut down the library, or allow its librarian to continue work in what she considers to be a noxious environment.

Depending on the outcome of this week’s tests, the Yukon’s Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board or the Yukon government may also rule to close the site.

Closure of the library would deprive Teslin residents of more than books. The library’s free internet access is also popular with teens who use its computers after school.

“Substantial amounts of mould” was found in the building’s basement in October of 2007 by inspectors from the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, said Kurt Dieckman, director of occupational health and safety.

That mould was cleaned up. Shortly afterwards, the village of Teslin, which owns the building, gave its tenants — which included, at the time, the community’s library, bank and post office — notice they must leave by October 31, 2008.

The condition of the building was not monitored after this point by the health and safety board because they understood the tenants would move out, said Dieckman.

The bank moved out in September. The post office moved out in October. But the library stayed put.

No suitable location for the library could be found, said Doris Wurfbaum, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

So, on October 20, village officials reached a deal with Archie Lang, minister of community services. They agreed the library would remain in the old building until the end of March of 2009, while the government sought a new location. In exchange, the territory agreed to pay the cost of maintaining the building.

Yukon’s public works department plans to renovate the building’s air ducts and heating systems to make it habitable until March, said Wurfbaum.

The building is more than 50 years old, and water continues to seep into its basement, said Wirth. A building inspection conducted four years ago recommended closing the building rather than spending more money on renovations.

Possible future locations for the library may include a building owned by the Teslin Tlingit Council or a portable building.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

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