Heat elements to melt snow from library steps

New system, handrails and tread to cost $61,000
Wednesday, December 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:12 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ice and snow the past two winters made the Columbia Public Library’s main entrance steps slippery and dangerous. Beginning today, however, visitors will be able to use the steps worry-free.

Work began earlier this month to install a heat-element snow-melting system in the steps. Karl West, a construction worker for KCI Construction of St. Louis, expects the work to be done today.

The system melts ice and snow by running electricity through wires laid under the concrete. Library spokeswoman Kris Farris said the Columbia Library District Board of Trustees deemed the improvement necessary for safety reasons. Although the library used salt in the past to melt ice and snow, the new system will be faster and more efficient.

“It would take a while for the ice to clear off the steps with salt,” Farris said. “It’s really safer for our patrons that we do this.”

Before, when ice and snow built up, library administrators put up signs directing people away from the steps and onto the main ramp, which has heating elements. Farris, however, said people disregarded the signs.

“People will walk where they want to walk,” she said. “People look for convenience, so this is really an improvement we felt was necessary for the public’s safety.”

The library also added two middle handrails and nonslip tread to the 14 steps, which stretch about 25 feet across. Before there were only two side handrails and no tread.

The work, which was approved by the Columbia library board in September, cost an estimated $61,000. The money came from the library’s capital project fund.

“We were well under budget, and this was something we wanted to do,” Farris said. “It’s like a final improvement for the library.”

The number of visitors to the library has been steady at about 1,200 per day since its $22 million reconstruction was finished in September 2002.

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