Wilton library drains not working as expected

WILTON – Last fall’s $3,000 temporary fix of the Wilton Public-Gregg Free Library drains didn’t work as expected and the basement has flooded again. Since the ground is now frozen, making any work on the drainage system difficult, the trustees expect more problems when snow melts.

Librarian Pat Fickett and trustees Molly Shanklin and Ron Brown met with the Board of Selectmen on Jan. 19 to discuss the problem, determine who pays for what, and to discuss a proposed warrant article for town meeting.

To clean up the latest flood, the library hired a cleaning service at a cost of about $700 to remove water and treat carpets.

The library is owned by the town but, by state statute, is administered by the Board of Trustees.

“There is some overlap,” Fickett said. “How do we work this out together?”

Most of the grounds maintenance is done by the town, she said. “We don’t have the staff to handle outside work,” such as lawn mowing, snow plowing, and cleaning out the drains. If that work is to be done by Public Works, she added, “We need a direct line. They have to realize it is something they have to respond to. I think there has been a misunderstanding. If we are using Public Works (to do the maintenance) they need to know that.”

Selectman Chairman Bill Condra said, “You have to realize that plowing the roads is the first priority, during a storm,” and parking lots are later.

Fickett said she knew that and the library makes arrangements to have walks shoveled in order to open on time.

Selectman Kermit Williams said, “There needs to be a maintenance plan for the grounds.” He added, in his opinion, all the grounds work should be under the Public Works Department, since they have the equipment.

Trustee Ron Brown agreed, said such a plan will be developed and “we can use that plan to develop a budget.” Brown agreed there was no line in their budget to cover such maintenance.

Williams said, “We will talk to the Budget Committee, ask them to make some adjustments in the library budget.” He suggested adding $5,000.

Trustee Molly Shanklin said, “All of our trust fund money got used on water damage last year.”

Fickett said they had received three estimates from engineering firms. When a plan is agreed upon, a request for funds will be on the Town Meeting warrant in March.

The plan includes digging down to the bottom of the foundation, sealing the stonework, adding stone around the perimeter and installing drains around the building below the foundation. Those drains would be attached to the town’s storm drains.

It was agreed that the problem has several causes. The 100-year-old original drains may have collapsed or deteriorated, become disconnected from the storm drains or may no longer be large enough. Changes to Gregg Street behind and above the library have changed the course of run-off water and there has been significant development and other changes to the ridge behind the library.

In 2005, the town spent $50,000 on the drainage system, but that fix seems to have failed.

The selectmen said they would discuss the maintenance with Public Works Director Steve Elliott and ask the Budget Committee to add the funds and new line item.

The trustees will come up with final figures and wording for a warrant article. And everyone will hope for no new flooding.