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Published: Saturday, 1/3/2004

Collapse of Bedford library roof delays $3 million expansion job

Adam Jondall, right, separates damaged boards at the library branch with a man who identified himself only as Derek. Adam Jondall, right, separates damaged boards at the library branch with a man who identified himself only as Derek.

TEMPERANCE - Bedford Township s $3 million library expansion project lay in shambles yesterday after workers discovered an estimated $80,000 in vandalism.

“The library looks like a lumberyard after a tornado,” township supervisor LaMar Frederick said. “Happy New Year to us.”

When workers arrived yesterday morning to continue work on the expansion, they found most of the huge trusses - intended to carry the weight of the building s metal roofing - shattered on the ground. The trusses had been installed earlier this week.

J.L. Judge Construction, the project s general contractor from Detroit, called Monroe County sheriff s detectives to investigate.

Detective Tom Redmond characterized the damage as “a deliberate act, a malicious destruction of property, as far as I m concerned.”

The construction site has been picketed in recent weeks by members of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, who were protesting J.L. Judge s use of nonunion subcontractors on the taxpayer-funded expansion.

Charlie Jackson, business agent for the carpenter s union, said his members played no role in tearing down the trusses.

Union members, many of whom live in Bedford Township, had been angry at the use of nonunion labor for the expansion.

“Most of our picket line was manned by Bedford residents who are really upset about it,” Mr. Jackson said. “The money that s going to be paid for [the library] is leaving the township.”

Bedford Township voters approved a 0.75-mill property tax levy in August, 2002, to pay for the $3 million expansion of their branch library, the busiest in the Monroe County Library System.

The project had experienced significant delays when the original contractor failed to gain the bonding necessary to work on municipal projects in Michigan. The package was rebid last summer and J.L. Judge began work in September tearing down most of the former 15,000-square-foot building to replace it with a library twice the size.

The scope of the project also has drawn the ire of several residents, who said they were surprised at how much of the old building was razed. But township officials said the project was clearly laid out to voters and that the old building, which had previously undergone a significant expansion, suffered perpetual leaks in the roof and windows.

A spokesman for J.L. Judge did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Mr. Frederick said the general contractor reported that the incident probably would cause a one-week delay in the project because new trusses would have to be ordered and installed.

Mr. Jackson said his union s picket line was officially removed earlier this week after J.L. Judge hired a union contractor to do “a large portion” of the remaining exterior and interior work. Mr. Jackson said township officials had been sympathetic to the union, but they could not force the contractor to hire one subcontractor over another.

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