Restoration work at Pekin Public Library was completed Feb. 15, two-and-a-half months after flooding damaged sections of the facility.

A storm brought massive flooding to downtown Pekin Dec. 1, 2018, said Jeff Brooks, Pekin Public Library director. A combination of wakes from passing vehicles and a large volume of water flowing downhill toward the Illinois River spilled into the library’s storm water retention area. At the same time, the city’s combined sewer had filled to capacity.

“The storm water had nowhere to go since our storm drains from the roof and around the building empty into that sewer,” said Brooks. “This allowed the water level on the corner of the building to continue to rise until there was a body of water about 20 inches above the lid of the large drain, and 3 inches up the side of the library’s windows. The pressure from all that water caused drains around the outside in two emergency exit stairwells to fill with water, which spilled under the doors and into the building.

“Flooding indoors also came from a storm drain clean out inside the building that blew open and allowed the contents of the new corner lake to spill into the Adult Services side of the building. Finally, one of our lift stations check valves failed to function correctly, and when the city’s sewer filled up, sewage flowed through the check valve and into our pit outside the building. When that filled up, there was enough pressure to cause some floor drains to back up in our main floor restrooms.”

The flooding forced the library located at 301 S. 4th St., to close until Dec. 26, 2018. After the facility reopened, the Adult Service Department remained closed while ServPro Restoration Services removed damaged carpet and drywall; moved furniture, equipment and materials into storage; and cleaned and dried the building. No library books or other shelved materials had been damaged.

“The goal was to make it look as good as new,” said Brooks.

While contractors and subcontractors were busy with the restoration work, the library’s staff continued to use meeting areas, the Youth Services department and the lobby, Brooks said. Library staff also set up a makeshift computer lab near the lobby, which allowed them to continue providing internet and printing services. New books remained available on lobby shelving, and the book sale room remained open to the public.

“Other than rescheduling and relocating for a couple of weeks, our programs continued as normal,” said Emily Lambe, Pekin Public Library public information and programming manager. “The library did a good job of continuing services and had help from some community partners as well. One of our big programs in December is All Aboard the Polar Express. That brings in a lot of kids, and we didn’t want to cancel it. We were able to have it at the (Miller Senior Center). Every month, we have a homeschoolers’ art program. We held one at the SoulShine Art Studio instead of here.”

The library’s flood insurance will cover most of the approximately $500,000 in cleanup and restoration costs, Brooks said. The library has a $10,000 deductible on its insurance policy, which will come from the facility’s savings account for building projects. 

“The last weather related event to cause flooding was in 1980, and improvements following that event served the library well for 38 years,” he said. “Based on the information we have on the flooding from our cameras and local contractors, we have already begun taking steps to further reduce the risk and extent of damage caused by future flooding of such magnitude.”

While the restorations have brought the library back to its pre-flood service level, some work still remains, Brooks said. Check valve repairs will take place next month. The storm drain clean out has been removed, capped and sealed with epoxy cement. 

Lambe said that she enjoys the return to normal library operations and the renewal of activity that has come with the reopening of Adult Services.

“All of us like to be back to normal,” said Lambe. “It’s nice to have all of the people back and the community coming in. It was very quiet without the Adult Services side.”