Originally created 08/08/03

Cost of library restoration could top $3 million



ATHENS, Ga. - A small army of workers is on pace to have the fire-damaged University of Georgia Main Library open by the time fall semester begins, according to library Director William Potter.

"We fully expect to be open Aug. 18," Mr. Potter said Wednesday.

Some parts of the nine-story building are already cleaned up and operational, and about 100 library workers resumed work Monday in areas such as acquisition and cataloging.

The final bill for the July 23 arson may be more than double the first official estimates, said an official of the company doing the restoration.

The cost could exceed $3 million, said David King, a certified disaster restorer and vice president of Disaster Services Inc.

Shortly after the fire, Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine estimated the damage at more than $1.5 million.

The damage to the library's collections is still being evaluated, mainly on the second floor, where the fire was set.

A homeless Oglethorpe County teen, Jason Allen Nelms, has been charged with first-degree arson in connection with the library blaze. Mr. Nelms' lawyer declined to ask for bond in a July 31 hearing, and the 19-year-old remains in the Clarke County Jail.

Athens-Clarke firefighters beat the fire back before it could spread very far, but thousands of U.N. documents waiting to be shelved were destroyed before the fire was contained.

Most of the library's books, periodicals, microfilm and other materials, including most of those on the second floor, had only minimal damage and will be OK with a little cleaning.

But many, especially those on the second floor's top shelves, where the heat was greatest, will have to be rebound or replaced.

Leading visitors on a tour of the cleanup effort Wednesday, Mr. Potter pointed to a cabinet that contained 2,000 compact discs - not music, but information.

They were fried.

The story was brighter when officials opened a bank of cabinets containing 6 million microfiches, Mr. Potter said.

The microfiche cabinets illustrate how much worse the damage from the fire might have been, and how difficult it is to estimate damage from the blaze, even two weeks into the cleanup process.