03/12/2013 09:41 EDT | Updated 05/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Collapsed mall library workers were 'fed up' with constant leaks

The former chief librarian of the Elliot Lake Public Library continued to paint a troubling picture of nearly two decades of leaking water coming through the library ceiling at the now-collapsed Algo Centre Mall.

Letters written by library officials — including chief librarian Barara Fazekas — complained of near-constant leaks. Those letters were read aloud at the public inquiry hearings currently underway to look into the fatal mall roof collapse and the emergency response surrounding it.

The letters, which were sent to the city and the mall owners as early as 1991, talk about a floor littered with buckets and large garbage pails collecting water.

One letter to the city said 123 wet and browning ceiling tiles had to be replaced over the course of 10 years.

"They were fed up with water dripping down their necks from ceiling leaks when they were in the stacks,” said commission lawyer Nadia Effendi, who read one of the letters during Tuesday’s proceedings.

“[There was] water on the floor in the bathroom, buckets everywhere and plastic sheets having to be placed over the stacks, every night when rain is promised.”

Tarps and buckets

Another letter gave details of a vein of water running from the library all the way to the food court — where the ceiling came crashing down on June 23 of last year, killing Lucie Aylwin and Dolores Perizzolo.

In 1989, the library moved into the Algo Centre Mall and signed a 20-year lease.

Within a few years, dozens of books were sheltered by large blue tarps, and plastic buckets lined the floors to catch drips.

Fazekas told the commission that this wasn't the first time she had to deal with water damage in the library.

"This has been my career,” she said ruefully.

For several years, the library was located across the street from the Algo Mall.

Fazekas said that building was eventually deemed unsafe, ironically because of leaking.

'Anchor tenant'

The city then hired an architect to build a stand-alone building for the library.

But when city funds fizzled out, so did that idea.

"We were so disappointed,” she said. “We were crushed. It was difficult, very disappointing."

Following the city’s decision, the public library moved into the Algo Centre Mall, even though they knew about the problems with leaking and water damage.

"The library would act as, what they call, an anchor tenant, because we would occupy 8,500 square feet,” she said.

No criminal charges or civil liability will come from the public inquiry, which was established shortly after the fatal collapse. The commission, headed by Justice Paul Belanger, will come up with recommendations to help prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

The inquiry is expected to run until mid-July.

Schedule of testimony: