It’s up to city residents now to decide whether the Bangor Public Library will keep its copper dome roof. When voters go to the polls June 18, they will see this question on the ballot: “Shall the Order ‘Authorizing a $3,000,000 Bond Issue to Repair the Bangor Public Library Roof’ be approved?” They should vote yes to not only protect the building’s structure but to preserve its historic integrity.
By now it’s well-known that the library on Harlow Street needs to replace its 100-year-old roof, which lasted longer than its expected useful life. Leaking water is threatening collections, the ceiling dropped nearly three inches in the second-floor Bangor Room, and library staff in October found a “river” flowing down the marble staircases. The oxidized copper roof and dome are original to the building, which opened in 1913, about two years after a fire destroyed much of the city.
The copper roof has become part of the city’s history. It enhances the character of the downtown. Bangor has seen many development changes during the past century, with the spread of malls and modern buildings, so it’s important to protect buildings and structures of historic significance before they are gone forever.
It also makes economic sense to install a copper roof instead of a steel roof. A copper roof has an 80-year life, while a steel roof could have a guaranteed life of about 40 years and would not be much cheaper, said Nelson Durgin, chairman of the Bangor City Council.
“For what we had to do to keep this historic building in shape, the copper roof was the best way to go,” he said.
The other councilors sensibly agreed when they voted unanimously April 8 to authorize the bond issue. Voter approval is required after voters decided in November to amend the city charter to require a referendum if the cost of a project exceeds a certain sum based on a percentage of the city’s valuation.
Library Trustee Bob Kelly told the council that building committee members invited five companies to bid for the project, received four bids and interviewed the two lowest bidders. They selected the lowest bid from Roof Systems of Maine, based in Bangor. If voters agree to the bond issue, the local company will begin construction immediately on June 19. That way, the roof can be fixed before next winter.
The library provides many resources and programs to the community and deserves popular support. More than 30,000 Mainers are members. The place of community gathering and learning should not have to go through another winter with tarps and plywood filling the gaps. The councilors recognized the importance of preserving the aesthetic qualities of the building to mesh with the city’s historic district. Now it’s the city residents’ turn.