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Library to broaden lawsuit

Claims architect, project manager liable in fuel spill

– The Allen County Public Library plans to expand its legal fight to determine who is responsible for a 2006 diesel fuel leak at the downtown library.

The board of trustees voted during its monthly meeting Thursday to add to its lawsuit as defendants MSKTD and W.A. Sheets and Sons. MSKTD was the local architect on the $65 million downtown library expansion and renovation. W.A. Sheets was the construction manager for the project.

Board attorney Pete Mallers said he planned to file a motion to amend the legal complaint today or Monday at the latest. A judge would have to approve adding additional defendants.

The board first voted in January to sue Shambaugh & Son and Hamilton Hunter Builders, seeking reimbursement for expenses the library has incurred to clean up more than 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel that leaked into the ground below the parking garage.

The cost of the cleanup was expected to exceed $500,000.

As part of the legal fight, Shambaugh has alleged that MSKTD and W.A. Sheets could be at least partly responsible for the leak, according to a motion the board approved.

The board’s motion also said that expanding the lawsuit was intended “to protect the library’s interest in the lawsuit and to make certain that all parties that might be held responsible for the diesel leak and resulting damages are parties to the lawsuit.”

Library Director Jeff Krull called suing the project’s architect and construction manager a tactical maneuver.

Krull said the companies shouldn’t feel they are being blamed, but the library can’t collect an award from a court judgment if the responsible firm isn’t named in the suit.

Representatives of MSKTD and W.A. Sheets could not be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon.

In other business, the board accepted another grant to help pay for making digital copies of papers that are part of the Lincoln Collection.

This is the second $50,000 library services and technology grant the library has received to pay for digitizing, Krull said.

The Indiana State Library distributes the federal grant money to libraries.

Manuscripts and clippings that were part of the closed Lincoln Museum’s $20 million collection are now housed in the main library’s rare-book collection. Library officials estimate it will cost $630,000 to $650,000 to digitize the entire Lincoln Collection.

Digitizing those letters, books and news clippings will make the vast collection accessible to the general public through the library’s website and was considered a key part of the library’ pitch to keep the collection in Indiana.

Artifacts from the collection are now housed at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.