The Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services released a statement on July 9, 2020, announcing the closure of the Cultural Building in Augusta to the public for up to two years to allow mechanical upgrades and asbestos removal at the building.
The upgrades include the installation of a new heating, cooling, and electrical system, and removal of asbestos from the mechanical rooms.
The building, which houses the Maine State Library, Maine State Archives and Maine State Museum of Augusta, has never gone under significant repairs or improvements since it was built in 1967-69. In such a long period, the building has suffered major mechanical failure and developed some severe asbestos issues.
Kyle Hadyniak, director of communications for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said that though the renovation will take long and test the patience of people, it will enable cultural agencies to preserve the history and knowledge.
Anya Trundy, director of legislative affairs for the Department, informed that the process of asbestos abatement has already started, and mechanical upgrades will follow it to the air conditioning system. She describes the building as one of the state government’s “most troubled,” for it causes public health issues.
The Maine Senate approved $15M in funding proposed by the Governor via the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority program for the renovation project. Though the Legislature has considered the asbestos issue in January 2020 in the context of L.D. 1969, it already formed a task force in 2006 to identify the state buildings that needed mechanical upgrades.
L.D. 1969, known as Act to Protect State Workers from Exposure to Carcinogens, requires the state government to improve the conditions of the government’s aging buildings while taking care of the health of public and state workers.
Deputy Secretary of State for Archives Kate McBrien, State Librarian James Ritter, and Museum Director Bernard Fishman have released a joint statement in which they welcomed the renovation project at the building, saying the modernization will provide a better experience for both their visitors and staff.
According to Hadyniak, the agencies housed in the Cultural Building of Augusta have decided to continue their staff operations while relocating some staff to alternative locations.
The renovation project will be overseen by the Bureau of General Services, which has contracted Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, Inc. for the mechanical upgrades and asbestos abatement.