ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Englewood library has joined what appears to be a growing list of public facilities contaminated with meth that includes Boulder's main library and RTD's Downtown Boulder bathrooms, and city leaders warn more could soon be added.
Victor Rachael, the city's public works director, says they decided last week to test for meth residue after seeing what happened in Boulder.
"We thought it would be in everyone's best interest to be proactive and to get that testing out there," he said. "Unfortunately, the thresholds were above where we thought they would be."
Now, the library, its bathrooms, the north Civic Center lobby and its second-floor bathrooms are closed, and it's unclear at this point how soon they'll be accessible again to the public.
"There's a public service now that is extremely limited," Rachael said.
Despite its small-town feel, not even Englewood is immune to the difficulties libraries and public facilities in bigger cities are facing. A small percentage of people are using their space for the wrong reasons.
"We've seen an increase in drug use or heard about it from patrons or might be smelling something in the air when they were in our restroom," said Christina Underhill, the city's director of parks, recreation, library and golf.
Last year, the city hired in-house security to monitor what's going on at its library to help librarians focus on their jobs. And recently, Underhill says the city council approved funding to hire more staff to have a bigger presence on the floor.
"We've seen a change in who comes into our library and the clientele around the area," she said. "It's really started to escalate."
Right now, city staff is focused on hiring a remediation contractor. There is no timeline yet, nor is there an estimate for how much this will all cost. In Boulder, for example, the city has spent $100,000 on testing and initial cleanup and is expecting to spend another $125,000.
In a statement, Arapahoe County Public Health said it is helping Englewood with the clean-up process.
"Arapahoe County Public Health is working closely with the City of Englewood to assess and provide direction regarding the clean-up of methamphetamine (meth) residue from locations within the Englewood Public Library and City Center. Affected areas in the building are currently closed to the public. Additional testing is planned, and test results will inform next steps. Health risks to the general public are considered low and visitors should comply with all posted signage and avoid all closed areas while remediation is in progress, which may take several months."