The 107-year-old Carnegie library building and annex in Snohomish (Jim Davis / The Herald)

The 107-year-old Carnegie library building and annex in Snohomish (Jim Davis / The Herald)

Snohomish making plans to restore 107-year-old Carnegie building

SNOHOMISH — The city of Snohomish is making plans to revive its oldest building.

The 107-year-old Carnegie library has been closed for months because of a leaky roof. A nonprofit has spent more than a decade drawing up designs to convert the site into an education and community center. The city recently offered to foot the bill.

“The Carnegie Foundation has done a lot of wonderful work,” deputy city manager Steve Schuller said. “They see that they haven’t been able to put together the millions of dollars it takes to run their operation.”

The topic is scheduled for council discussion Tuesday. Public hearings also are set for later this year.

The Carnegie building served as the library until 2003. It was closed in April after the roof of the annex, which was added in 1968, began dripping. Officials didn’t realize the severity of the damage until contractors uncovered soppy layers of roofing material.

The Snohomish Carnegie Foundation has talked about demolishing the annex and installing stairs as part of a remodel. The center would be a meeting place for community groups, and would display science and art exhibits. A stage area is being considered for musical and theater performances, along with a parking lot for farmers markets.

The council approved the plans in 2011. However, the foundation’s funding fell short for the $3.26 million project.

To make ends meet, volunteers repainted and raised money for a seismic retrofit. Contractors installed bracing on the floors, a tile roof for the main building, and new water and sewer lines.

In June, the council decided to continue with the 2011 master plan but with modifications. Staff will work with architects to create a design within budget. The city expects to draw funding through the real estate excise tax, utility revenue and grants.

“We want to invest in the building and get it fixed up,” Schuller said. “It hasn’t seen any real, true maintenance for four decades other than the seismic retrofit.”

The annex might not survive.

Councilwoman Karen Guzak worries it would be too expensive to maintain. The power bill during the winter months was more than $2,000, Schuller said.

He estimated that it would cost about $500,000 to repair the annex’s leaky roof. Snohomish Mayor Tom Hamilton called the annex a “money pit.”

Bill Betten, who earlier pushed to change Snohomish’s form of government, has formed a nonprofit aimed to preserve the Carnegie building, including the annex. He proposed the addition be used for community events, as well as town hall and City Council meetings, according to an opinion piece he submitted to The Herald. He hoped groups focusing on issues such as homelessness and drug addiction could use that space to gather.

Betten also has suggested using solar panels to reduce the building’s electricity bill.

Neighbors will be paying attention. Schuller said he has received many calls from those concerned about what will become of the Carnegie. He reminds them that nothing has been settled, and that time will be set aside for public input.

“They’re making assumptions that haven’t happened yet,” Schuller said. “They’re arguing whether the walls are going to be blue or green.”

An open house is scheduled for September. Officials will provide a preliminary schedule for the project and brainstorm design concepts.

Public meetings also are scheduled for December and February to review designs and cost estimates.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins@heraldnet.com.

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