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The last bit of flooring is being glued to the surface of the Orange County Library in San Clemente. Photo: Eric Heinz
The last bit of flooring is being glued to the surface of the Orange County Library in San Clemente. Photo: Eric Heinz

By Eric Heinz

A yearlong endeavor, fraught with financial issues and an existing building that was falling apart, the renovation of the Orange County local branch in San Clemente is nearing completion.

Nonie Fickling, president of the Friends of the Library, said the facility will reopen July 20 and there will be a grand opening sometime in mid-August.

After years of termite infestation, city and state codes evolving and more issues, San Clemente officials had to do something about the faltering library. Much of the interior and supporting walls had to be reconstructed.

Features of the library that have been redone include a new lobby area, lighting that meets new efficiency codes, and the former senior center area is being converted into the children’s section. The expanded space will provide enough room for 50 to 60 people to host small events.

Ryan Sanders of Sanders Construction Services, which is leading the renovation efforts, said an exterior wall had to be completely redone because it was ravaged by termites.

“They found a lot of termites when they started moving walls around,” Sanders said. “It was just an old building, and it had to be completely rewired, new conduits, all mechanical upgrades. We had to pull out all the existing ductwork.”

Friends of the Library President Nonie Fickler examines the Orange County Library San Clemente branch near the stained glass Monday in the reception area. Photo: Eric Heinz
Friends of the Library President Nonie Fickling examines the Orange County Library San Clemente branch near the stained glass Monday in the reception area. Photo: Eric Heinz

One particular beam had to be removed because it had been gnawed through by the insects.

“Our side of the work is going to be done in the next two weeks; we’re going to be getting the interior and exterior doors put in, and after that the county will bring in their bookshelves,” Sanders said.

Air conditioning systems have also been installed, the flooring is being put in and most of the final touches are almost complete on the facility, but bringing in the books and shelves will take about a month, he added.

The construction company had to bring in a crane for new insulation in the roof as well as a control system that will alert library staff if there is a problem, such as a malfunction or a break-in.

Friends of the Library Bookstore will be in its own section of the building.

Stained glass reflects off the windows of the branch manager’s office, which views into the main room of the Orange County San Clemente Library. Friends of the Library officials said the structure should reopen July 20. Photo: Eric Heinz

The friends group has raised nearly $20,000 for new books and materials through the sale of painted tiles. The interior wall of the walkway to the friends building will be festooned with the tiles.

Sanders said the dated structure itself made renovation difficult, as there was no drywall or similar structuring to work with. The more complicated repairs required approval from building inspection, which further delayed the project.

“The whole other wall was so rotted and termite-infested it almost fell off,” Sanders said.

Fickling said the building was constructed in the early 1970s.

Americans with Disabilities Act compliance had to be ensured through construction around the exterior.

“Everything is winding down, everything is being taken off the checklist,” Fickling said.

The renovations, which cost about $2.3 million, were criticized by City Council members for being over budget, as the city had already kicked in more than three quarters of the costs. A request for an additional $325,000 in April 2014 drew particular ire from the dais because of shortfalls.

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