- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

D.C. officials will spend $15 million to $20 million to repair the Georgetown public library damaged this week in a three-alarm fire, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said yesterday.

Mr. Fenty has identified $7.2 million in capital funds for the repair project, which library officials said will take years to complete.

“The administration’s No. 1 point here is that we are committed to rebuilding Georgetown’s historic library 100 percent,” the mayor said in a press conference in front of the building, in the 3000 block of R Street Northwest.

The fire started about 12:30 p.m. Monday.

An electrical short sparked another fire that day, at 1 a.m. at the Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Damage to the market is estimated at $5 million to $10 million.

Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, said Tuesday that the administration will use “supplemental revenue” to assist vendors and to rebuild the market, in the 200 block of Seventh Street Southeast. He said the city’s chief financial officer, Natwar M. Ghandi, will identify the revenue next week.

The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission will consider opening the D.C. Armory as a temporary site for displaced Eastern Market vendors.

Officials said the armory could not accommodate vendors this month because of scheduled events, but it may be available during the summer.

“If there’s some way we can be a good neighbor, we’d like to be if we can,” said Allen Lew, chief executive of the sports commission.

Neither the library nor the market had a sprinkler system and neither was required to have one.

A bookmobile will be dispatched to the library by next week, and a location for a temporary library is being sought, said Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian for the D.C. Public Library System.

A fire station in Georgetown will serve as a temporary reading room for children until the library is restored, said fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin.

The children’s room and story time were two of the library’s most popular attractions, residents said.

The room was among the worst damaged in the fire, which started in the attic and destroyed most of the roof.

With the ceiling collapsed, the room is open to the elements. Steel beams lie with scorched children’s books scattered in the rubble.

Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said the blaze was not set deliberately, but officials are investigating. One suspected cause is renovation work being performed on the building’s trim and windows.

Mr. Etter said construction workers may have tried to extinguish the fire. Chief Rubin said the workers did not call the fire department immediately after the blaze started.

The lapse contributed to the extent of the destruction more than the two malfunctioning fire hydrants closest to the building, he said.

Georgetown residents who gathered for the mayor’s address and library tour expressed relief that most of the historical documents and paintings in the library’s Peabody Room had survived the fire.

The Peabody Room, on the second floor, was wet but intact. The glass cases that lined the walls were empty, the pieces of history they had housed stored safely in a freezer truck to be taken to a restoration facility.



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