Gary’s Kennedy library reopens after insurance lapse, car crash

The shuttered John F. Kennedy Library, a branch of the Gary Public Library system, has the green light to reopen from its insurance agent.

In January, a vehicle struck the library at 3953 Broadway, damaging masonry on its southwest corner.

The squabbling library board couldn’t agree on a contractor and then couldn’t reach a quorum at other meetings and its insurance lapsed Aug. 31 as the claim remains outstanding. As a result, the branch closed Sept. 1.

At a special meeting Wednesday, insurance agent Leslie Skinner-Leslie, of Haywood and Fleming Associates, told the library board it again had insurance coverage and she advised the board to reopen the branch as soon as possible.

The branch reopens Monday. It will be open from 10 am to 6 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and noon to 8 pm on Thursdays.

On a recent afternoon, the damaged southwest corner of the Kennedy branch remained shrouded in orange snow fencing.

“The car went airborne and hit that corner,” board president Akilia McCain said of the accident.

A flier about a program to learn chess was taped to the inside of the glass door, along with other notices about library events that also have been on hold. The library closed briefly after the January crash, McCain said, and remained open until its insurance lapsed because the repairs hadn’t been made.

Meanwhile, board member Robert Buggs, who’s butted heads with McCain since she joined the board in January, said the Kennedy work could have been completed months ago if the McCain-led board hadn’t balked at a bid from Pangere Construction.

Instead, McCain advocated hiring project manager Douglas Cunningham, a move Buggs opposed saying he’s not licensed by the city.

Buggs argues that such a recommendation should have come through library director Diana Morrow and the library’s facilities director.

The board on Wednesday hired Cunningham to oversee the Kennedy work and repairs at the main library for water damage in the basement. The board also hired Shrewsberry and Associates to detail the scope of engineering work on the flooding.

McCain said the Kennedy branch has been struck by cars previously over the past few years and she’d like the board to work with the Indiana Department of Transportation, which oversees Broadway as a state road, to come up with a traffic solution.

In the meantime, work on the building stalled.

“We received payment from the insurance, but the price continues to climb as we wait,” she said, adding the library received $160,000 earlier this year but the cost of the work has since increased by $20,000. “It’s already over what the insurance has given us.”

As she spoke outside the shuttered library, a man pulled along the curb and rolled the passenger side window down. He wanted to know if the library was closed.

“No, it’s not open right now,” she said, adding as he drove away, “People utilize this library.”

The board is holding its regular meeting at 5 pm Monday at the main library and will review its 2023 budget.

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Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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