Jeff Bilodeau, service manager from W.H. Demmons, and Library Director Richard Fortin confer Feb. 8 about the heating unit at the Bailey Public Library in Winthrop following a malfunction there that led to the building’s closure. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

WINTHROP — After sustaining damage earlier this month due to record-breaking low temperatures, the boiler at the Bailey Public Library needs to be completely replaced at a cost estimated to be near $50,000.

In the meantime, the facility has partially reopened to the public.

Smoke is seen coming from Bailey Public Library chimney on Feb. 5 during an oil leak at the Winthrop building. Contributed photo

Problems began on Saturday, Feb. 4, when library officials discovered in the morning that a fresh air vent in the furnace room brought in extreme cold that froze the oil filters and oil lines, encasing them in ice. Arctic air plunged temperatures to minus 20 degrees that morning.

The oil’s consistency turned to sludge, backing up the system and causing a major oil leak.

As a result, the entire boiler was encapsulated with oil, which leaked through the cast iron. The nozzle also sprayed oil throughout the room.

Library Director Richard Fortin said last week that a representative with W.H. Demmons, the library’s  heating, ventilation and air conditioning service company, arrived on the scene shortly after the problems were discovered and took it out into the snow, where it caught on fire.


“It could have been a lot worse,” Fortin said earlier this month.

The library is divided into two parts — the new addition and the historic side. Fortin said the historic side was hit the hardest with fumes from the incident. The facility reopened on Feb. 6, but the historic portion was still sealed off due to lingering fumes.

Fortin said on Friday that while they did not move all 15,000 books, library officials took some books and materials from the children’s section, which is located in the historic part of the library, and brought them to the new addition.

Fortin doesn’t yet know how much of the replacement will be covered through the library’s insurance policy.

“I met with the adjuster and we went through the whole building,” said Fortin. “He was able to see how unpleasant it was, with the oil smell, but I have absolutely zero indication what they’ll do.”

“We hopefully will have some answers in the next week or two about what we can do to get rid of the source of the smell so we can open that wing back up,” he continued. “We are operating the children’s room down in the event room right now, so we are fully open.”


Events are still taking place in the event room, with a local ukulele group sharing the space for a couple hours Thursday night as parents browsed for books.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” said Fortin. “The ukulele people were happy to share the space and it’s working out well right now. It’s not a long-term solution, but it’ll get us through this.”

Issues will continue until the boiler is replaced, after which Fortin said a negative air machine could be used to completely rid the library of fumes, potentially as quickly as a day.

Once they hear back about insurance coverage, Fortin said they will ask to be put on a waiting list for repairs, which could take a month or two.

“We are doing everything we can to get back to normal, operating with all 9,000 square feet of the building,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later.”

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