WEYMOUTH — The town will spend $1.7 million to repair and shore up the exterior of the deteriorating Fogg Library.
The town council Monday approved spending $1.32 million in addition to $382,000 already allocated to repair the library, which was built in 1897. The library has been closed since 2005 after water infiltrated the building, severely eroding its mortar and damaging its roof and walls.
“It’s a shame it was neglected for so long,” Town Council President Michael Smart said. “You cannot leave a historic building to deteriorate. You have to do something about it or knock it down.”
A consultant hired by the town to study the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, painted a dire picture of its condition for the council before the vote.
Jim McKinnell of the Norwell firm McKinnell, McKinnell and Taylor displayed a heavily eroded roof slate from the building at the meeting and said the sky could be seen in the attic because of damage by water penetration and freezing and thawing.
“I was literally able to pull a stone off the face of the building with my hands,” McKinnell said.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring and be completed in the fall. The money for the project comes mostly from revenue that is collected through the community preservation property tax surcharge.
“It’s expensive to preserve it,” Town Councilor Ed Harrington said of the library. “Every now and then there’s going to be an extraordinary expense to do the right thing.”
Mary Sue Ryan, a resident of nearby Pleasant Street, praised the vote but said too much time passed before the town put money toward saving the building.
“Many of us here watched the whole history of our town jeopardized and just ignored,” she said. “(The library) is a beautiful piece of architecture and it is so very important.”
A Fogg Library committee is currently studying what the future use of the building will be. It could cost as much as $500,000 to renovate the interior of the building, depending on the use. The building will maintain a library function but could serve other functions as well.