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Opening pushed to spring for new Clearwater Library

The city’s $1.05-million conversion of the second-storey community room at Clearwater Arena into a new library branch is taking several months longer than expected and won’t be complete until April.

The city’s $1.05-million conversion of the second-storey community room at Clearwater Arena into a new library branch is taking several months longer than expected and won’t be complete until April.

When it’s ready to welcome patrons, the Clearwater Library will have about twice the floor space as the old Lambton Mall branch it is replacing. It will also have new accessible washrooms, a room for public programs, an elevator, and computer stations. 

The renovation is extensive, says Andrew Meyer, general manager of the county’s cultural services division. “The old arena community room won’t be recognizable.”

The project is led by the City of Sarnia, which owns the building, in collaboration with the county, which operates all 25 library branches in Sarnia/Lambton, including three in Sarnia.

Library staff closed the popular Lambton Mall branch on Lambton Mall Road Nov. 1 in anticipation of moving into the new Clearwater branch in January. But delays related to supply chain issues have pushed the opening date to April, according to city spokesperson Steve Henschel.

“In terms of remaining work, we are working on finishing touches such as installation of fire-proof, shatter-proof windows, bathroom finishes and signage,” he said. 

“We’re looking forward to April when we will open a beautiful new library space that residents will enjoy for years to come,” he added. Clearwater Arena is poised to become a community hub with the new library, various recreational facilities and a new, $3-million city transit terminal now under construction.

Henschel said the library project is helping to “revitalize an underutilized community space, providing a library location overlooking the arena’s east rink.”

While the city’s library patrons are currently limited to two branches – one in downtown Sarnia and one in Bright’s Grove – Meyer encouraged residents to use other branches including the one in Point Edward.

“We’ve had many questions from the public when the Clearwater location will open,” Meyer said. “But we’re confident the extra time will allow us to create a vibrant space for patrons to learn and connect.”

“This project is important to us,” he said. “We can’t wait for the new space to open.”

Meanwhile, staff from the Lambton Mall location are working at the other branches, which have experienced a surge in activity since Lambton Mall closed.

City council’s decision to close the Mall Road branch after 43 years at a busy strip mall, was initially met with resistance from many library users. However, the deal was cemented following a staff report that said Clearwater’s community room was booked only 16 per cent of the time, and a move from the Mall Road branch would save the city $70,000 a year in rent.

At that time, council approved a $200,000 budget for renovations and awarded the contract to Maaten Construction.  But closer inspection of the wiring and plumbing, and a new HVAC system, required approval of another $700,000 for the project in 2022. Another $150,000 was needed later for a fire escape.

Renovation costs are more than five times what was originally anticipated, but it’s expectedthe   Clearwater Library will serve a busy residential neighbourhood that is positioned for growth.

It will also appeal to parents and siblings with time to kill when family members are using the ice, Meyer said, noting the bank of windows overlooking the ice is being retained.