The Riverside Public Library won’t be able to activate a new heating and air-conditioning system until next spring after the library board delayed awarding a contract for the work due to questions about the apparent low bidder’s cost estimates.

On Dec. 13 the library board decided to go with the higher of two bidders, Homer Glen-based G.T Mechanical, after a review of bid documents by the library’s consulting firm, Cartland Krauss Engineering and the board’s attorney, Michael Marrs.

G.T Mechanical’s bid was for $370,000. The other bidder, W.J. O’Neill of Chicago, provided estimates ranging from $209,081 to $286,470 depending on the manufacturer chosen to produce the rooftop unit.

But after a review of the bid documents, W.J. O’Neill’s estimates rose and approached those of G.T. Mechanical, said Library Director Janice Foley.

Based on the higher estimates after the review, said Foley, “the board felt and the attorney felt that because of a lack of a complete bid, they didn’t feel obligated to take the lower bid.”

Initially, library officials hoped the change to a new heating and air-conditioning system could be completed during the winter. But the delay in awarding a contract means that inside electrical work likely won’t begin until February and the installation of the rooftop unit won’t happen until late March or early April, said Foley.

The village of Riverside is assisting the library with funding the work by providing it with a low-interest loan.

In the meantime, library officials are crossing their fingers, hoping a temporary fix to the existing heating system can hang on until next spring. The library board wanted to get work completed this winter, because board members knew the existing system, which dates to the mid-1980s, was beginning to fail.

Rebuilt in 2007, the system’s control hardware and software is no longer supported. And about two weeks ago, the control panel finally ceased functioning properly. With the control panel stuck in air-conditioning mode, library officials sought a temporary fix.

One option, which the board rejected, cost $11,000. The other, involving a temporary thermostat, was problematic early on, with cool indoor temperatures forcing patrons to wear coats for about a week, Foley said.

But the temporary fix appears to be working now, said Foley.

“Patrons are not wearing coats any longer, so I take that as a good sign,” Foley said.

Adult collection consolidated

Meanwhile, the library completed installation of new shelves on the main floor to house its collection for adults. In addition to non-fiction works, the main floor stacks now house the library’s works of fiction. 

Mysteries are now housed in the main floor central atrium, while CDs, DVDs and audio books are in a room on the main floor just past the circulation desk.

The new shelves come to the library courtesy of a two-year fundraising effort by the Friends of the Riverside Public Library, which donated $85,000 to fund the project. Library staffers did a major “weeding out” of its collection, Foley said, of outdated books, including reference books, and items that had not circulated in many years.

That allowed the fiction, mystery and audio collections for adult, which previously were tucked away in the lower level, to be grouped with the rest of the adult collection on the main level.

Workers started the shelving replacement project on Nov. 28 and completed it Dec. 9. During that time, access to the collection was limited.