First chapter of overdue roof replacement project is in the books

Sep. 5—Like a mystery novel checked out months ago but forgotten under the back seat of a patron's car, the roof replacement project that started last week at Meadville Public Library is, according to Executive Director Dan Slozat, long overdue.

"The roof was last replaced in 1970," Slozat said in a phone interview Friday. "We've been operating on borrowed time for the last 20 years."

Work on the roof replacement project, which will cost about $190,000, began Wednesday and is expected to be completed this week, according to Slozat. The work is being performed by GilCon and Associates of Meadville.

The roof has held up surprisingly long, but not without the occasional issue.

"Shingles have been falling off for the past decade," Slozat said. "Every time we'd get a strong windstorm, you always wondered."

While the library stopped charging late fees for good last year after suspending them early in the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been no such forgiveness when it comes to replacement charges on roofing materials.

"Inflation was not kind, nor was petroleum prices hiking up," Slozat said, referring to the petroleum-based asphalt used in shingles. The price, he added, "has been daunting, but this was very much needed."

The project will replace both the asphalt shingles on the main library structure and the membrane-style roof that covers the Children's Room. The membrane roof was installed in 1999, according to Slozat.

Funding for the project came in large part from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provided a grant of about $46,000 and a low-interest loan of $86,000. The library is responsible for paying the nearly $60,000 remaining cost.

Some of that cost will be covered by money raised last week during the Crawford Gives fundraising marathon. Citing the roof replacement project as the specific need it hoped to address through the funds drive, Meadville Public Library received 96 gifts totalling $13,565.50 — short of its $25,000 goal, but still substantial, according to Slozat.

All nine branches of the Crawford County Federated Library System were among the 158 nonprofits that participated in the 48-hour Crawford Gives charity campaign. Between them, the various branches raised a total of $33,926.02.

Unlike the other participating organizations, the library system is funded in large part by a portion of the county's property tax that is dedicated specifically to the system. The county's property tax rate of 21.85 mills includes 0.7 mills that goes directly to libraries.

After years of lobbying from library officials, county commissioners approved an increase of 0.1 mills to the library portion of the property tax rate for 2019. With the increase, the library tax generated revenue of $732,000 in 2019, which was about $117,000 more than the previous year, according to county budget documents.

Slozat said that the system was still recovering from cuts to state funding of libraries early in the first decade of the century.

"Part of why we've asked for additional funds is to provide the level of service we once did provide and try to ensure that we can expand all of these things," he said, "because we believe in these programs and their importance — and we see the number of people that come in every day."

The numbers are impressive. The Meadville branch sees about 6,000 visits in a typical month — about 200 each day, according to Slozat, and that figure spikes in the summer months, when there are about 10,000 visits.

During the summer, he added, MPL circulated about 40,000 books. It also increased its offerings, particularly those designed to attract teens. Those efforts will continue after the completion of the roof replacement project, with a teen art show already planned for November.

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at