Library Board Acts on Budget, Infrastructure

Budget includes no increase in tax rate; trustees give AADL director 3% raise, take action on downtown library entrance, service contracts, agreement with Friends of the AADL

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (May 19, 2014): Trustees approved the library’s 2014-15 budget with no increase in the tax rate, following a pattern they’ve established over the past several years.

Ed Surovell, Margaret Leary, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor District Library trustees Ed Surovell and Margaret Leary at the board’s May 19, 2014 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The rate of 1.55 mills is also lower than the 1.92 mills that the library is authorized to levy. The $12.568 million budget assumes a 2.4% increase in tax revenues, based on an increase in property values. No one spoke during a public hearing on the budget that was held during the May 19 meeting.

The budget includes a 3% raise for AADL director Josie Parker, increasing her current salary of $143,114. As part of an annual director’s evaluation, board president Prue Rosenthal read aloud a letter from the board that praised Parker for her work and accomplishments.

Related to infrastructure, trustees authorized Parker to negotiate with Ann Arbor-based O’Neal Construction Inc. for work related to the downtown library entrance. O’Neal would be contracted to provide construction management services for the entrance’s renovation. This is the next step in a process that began several months ago, with construction to begin this summer.

The board also got an update from Parker about the public elevator for the downtown library, which is out of service. It’s expected to cost about $100,000 to repair and will take several months to fix. That work will also take place this summer, and requires closing the lower level of the building, where many public events are held.

The May 19 meeting included approval of contracts for janitorial services and HVAC maintenance, for three-year periods. Also approved was the renewal of a space-use agreement with the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library. FAADL operates a bookstore at the downtown library, with proceeds given to AADL.

The board also got a monthly update on library statistics, “top Tweets” and a viewing of a new video to promote AADL’s summer game, which starts on Friday, June 13, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 31. The video was produced by AADL staff and 7 Cylinders Studio.

2014-15 Budget

The May 19 agenda included authorization of the library’s fiscal 2014-15 budget with a millage rate of 1.55 mills – unchanged from the current rate. [.pdf of budget summary from AADL board meeting packet]

Prue Rosenthal, Josie Parker, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Prue Rosenthal, AADL board president.

The $12.568 million budget assumes a 2.4% increase in tax revenues, based on an increase in property values. The library is authorized to levy up to 1.92 mills, but in recent years the board has set the millage rate at lower levels. The library’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

The budget reflects a 3% increase in the merit raise pool for full-time employees. Salaries, wages and benefits account for the largest portion of the budget expenditures – a projected $8.048 million in fiscal 2014-15. The budget also includes a 3% increase in the library’s contribution to employee health care costs. Other major line items include materials ($1.75 million); utilities ($448,000); programming ($320,000); and repair/maintenance ($312,000).

The legal expense line item is increasing from a budgeted $50,000 this year to $96,000 in FY 2014-15. That reflects the start of union contract negotiations.

The board held a public hearing on the budget on May 19, but no one spoke. Trustees had been briefed on a draft budget at their April 21, 2014 meeting,

2014-15 Budget: Board Discussion

Discussion was brief. Margaret Leary asked about the 3% increase in the merit raise pool, suggesting that the language in the budget packet could be clarified. AADL director Josie Parker explained that the entire available pool of funding for merit pay will be increased by 3%, but it doesn’t mean that all workers will get a 3% raise. Staff could receive varying increases, depending on their performance – some might be higher than 3%, some might be lower.

Rebecca Head highlighted the fact that the board is not levying the full amount of the millage that it is authorized to levy. Leary noted that this is the same millage rate that was levied last year.

Outcome: On three separate unanimous votes, the board approved the budget, set the millage rate, and designated the budget as a line-item budget with a policy for disbursements.

Downtown Library Entrance

The board was asked to authorize the library director, Josie Parker, to negotiate with Ann Arbor-based O’Neal Construction Inc. for work related to the downtown library entrance. O’Neal would be contracted to provide construction management services. This is the next step in a process that began several months ago, stemming from the need to replace the entrance doors.

Ann Arbor District Library, InForm Studio, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rendering of the new design for the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building entrance. (Image by InForm Studio.)

At the board’s April 21, 2014 meeting, the board had authorized Parker to hire a construction manager for the project. At that meeting, trustees also allocated $18,580 from the fund balance to pay InForm Studio for construction documents. InForm Studio, the architecture firm that previously designed AADL’s Traverwood branch, gave an update on the process at that same meeting.

The existing teal porcelain panels that wrap around the front facade, part of architect Alden Dow’s original design from the mid-1950s, will be replaced with a “concrete skin” panel. The entrance will continue to be oriented to South Fifth Avenue, with new doors into the building. Leading from the front of the building into the vestibule will be two balanced double doors, which will be easier to open than the existing entry, and a single automatic door. A matching set of these doors will lead from the vestibule to the interior of the building. A heated sidewalk is proposed along the exterior edge of the steps.

The new design also will address accessibility concerns that have been raised by the public.

The overall project is now expected to cost about $250,000.

Downtown Library Entrance: Public Commentary

During public commentary at the start of the May 19 meeting, Don Salberg read from the library’s purchasing policy, as adopted by the library board in December 1995, with revisions in September 1996, August 2001, and June 2006. It states that the library will encourage, by any legitimate means, active and vigorous competition for library district business, he said. Salberg also read an excerpt stating that if the cost of goods, supplies or services can reasonably be expected to exceed $27,000 then specifications shall be prepared describing the type of goods, supplies or services that might be needed.

He said he was reviewing the policy because he doesn’t think it’s being used in the selection of a construction firm for the front entrance work. The AADL director has told him that no RFP (request for proposals) will be issued, Salberg said, although the work is expected to cost more than $27,000. “I ask the library board to insist that the executive director follow its own purchasing policies and ensure that the selection of the construction firm for replacing the front of the library will be decided by competitive bidding, if bids are submitted by more than one firm.”

This process would allow for local firms to compete, Salberg said, which he noted may not have been the case previously when the library hired Allerton-Hill consultants of Columbus, Ohio, Lansing-based EPIC-MRA, and InForm Studio of Northville. “The Ann Arbor community will benefit if its tax dollars are retained by contracting with local companies,” Salberg concluded.

Downtown Library Entrance: Board Discussion

During her report from the board’s facilities committee, Margaret Leary noted that the work with O’Neal is not for construction of the whole project, but rather for the project’s management. The facilities committee was recommending approval of the resolution.

Nancy Kaplan, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Nancy Kaplan.

Ed Surovell, another facilities committee member, asked AADL director Josie Parker to respond to Don Salberg’s public commentary. Parker replied that the construction manager has oversight for the project. They look at construction documents, determine whether the design is feasible, and work with architects on the project’s budget. The construction manager then bids the work, she said, and subsequently manages the project as construction takes place. “They make sure it’s done on time, in sequence,” Parker said. The construction manager handles the permitting process, inspections, stormwater mitigation, safety, and any other aspect of the project.

Parker also noted that the construction manager will be responsible for helping AADL stay open during the project.

Surovell confirmed with Parker that the three new library branches – Malletts Creek, Pittsfield, Traverwood – were handled in the same way. Skanska was construction manager for Malletts Creek and Pittsfield, and O’Neal was construction manager for Traverwood.

Leary stressed that the library has extensive experience with O’Neal that’s been very satisfactory. She noted that Parker had requested qualifications from O’Neal, which had in turn been provided to the facilities committee.

Parker pointed out that the library policies allow for a request for qualifications (RFQ) to be used rather than a request for proposals (RFP) for this type of work.

Nancy Kaplan noted that O’Neal is a local firm, based in Ann Arbor.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved the resolution authorizing Parker to negotiate with O’Neal Construction for construction management services.

Director’s Evaluation

Earlier in the meeting, the board met in closed session to discuss the director’s evaluation. Barbara Murphy, chair of the director’s evaluation committee, attended that session but left before the rest of the board meeting due to illness. Other committee members are Jan Barney Newman and Rebecca Head.

Josie Parker, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL director Josie Parker.

Prue Rosenthal, board president, read aloud a letter that outlined Parker’s accomplishments, including her appointment to the state Commission for Blind Persons and the fact that no union grievances were filed this year. [.pdf of letter]

For the past four years, given the economic climate, Parker has requested that her salary remain unchanged, and the board has agreed. This year, the board is giving her a 3% raise. Her salary prior to the raise is $143,114.

The board gave Parker a round of applause.

Outcome: This was not a voting item.

Later in the meeting, the board voted to go into closed session at the start of their next meeting, on June 16, for the purpose of continued discussion of the director’s evaluation. This session was at Parker’s request.

Director’s Report

AADL director Josie Parker congratulated staff for putting on Visions 2014, a vendor fair held on May 14 at Washtenaw Community College for people who are blind and physically handicapped. About 500 people attended, from as far away as Grand Rapids, Gaylord, Toledo and Detroit. Parker said that consumers and their caregivers told her how difficult it is to get information about these services, especially for people who live in rural Michigan or Ohio, so they appreciated the vendor fair. “Right now, there’s nothing else like it in Michigan,” she said.

The event also drew librarians and staff from the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons. Parker pointed out that the event included a contractor from the Business Enterprise Program (BEP), which the bureau oversees, to manage the food vendors.

In particular, Parker praised AADL managers Terry Soave and Tim Grimes, who held the most responsibility for the event. Soave is the library’s outreach & neighborhood services manager. Grimes serves as manager of community relations and marketing. They received a round of applause from the board.

Director’s Report: Elevator Repair

Parker also reported that the public elevator for the downtown library isn’t working. It’s the same problem that took the freight elevator out of commission a couple of years ago, she said. Leaks had developed in the hydraulic piston, causing it to fail a weight test.

Ed Surovell, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ed Surovell.

It will cost about $100,000 to repair, and AADL is working with Schindler Elevators on the project. The work will be more difficult to manage because it’s in the public space, she noted. The repair work will be staged in the building’s lower level, but there will be noise and some emissions when the workers are welding.

Parker said that when workers remove the piston that operates the elevator – buried deep underground – dirt falls into the hole. Depending on how compacted it is, workers will need to drill down to remove the dirt. That drilling is what causes most of the noise and vibration, she said. The new piston will be brought in as 15-foot segments through the front entry, she said, but that will likely occur before the library opens in the morning.

The elevator won’t likely be functional until the end of August, Parker said. There won’t be public access to the lower level during the work, so programming that’s scheduled there will have to be moved. It’s helpful that the bookstore operated in the lower level by the Friends of the AADL isn’t open during the summer, she said.

For people who can’t use the stairs, they can ask the library staff to escort them to the freight elevator. That’s coordinated with security staff, Parker said. Everyone else will be using the stairs.

Parker pointed out that this work will be occurring while the front entry renovations are underway. That’s why the oversight of O’Neal Construction is more important than ever, she said.

Agreement with FAADL

A resolution was on the May 19 agenda to extend the Ann Arbor District Library’s space-use agreement with the nonprofit Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library for one year. The current agreement expired on May 21. [.pdf of agreement]

FAADL operates a used bookstore in the lower level of the downtown branch at 343 S. Fifth Ave. Proceeds of the store – about $90,000 annually – are given to the library.

Agreement with FAADL: Board Discussion

Margaret Leary, chair of the facilities committee, noted that this item had been reviewed by committee members on May 8. At that same meeting, the committee discussed the desire by FAADL to have the carpet replaced in the bookshop. Under terms of the agreement, that’s the responsibility of the library, she noted. So the library will be replacing the carpet sometime this summer, along with carpet in other areas of the downtown library.

AADL director Josie Parker noted that work to repair the public elevator will be staged in the lower level, so the timing of the carpet replacement will be pushed back a bit. She reported that all of the carpet in the lower level – including the multi-purpose room, where events are held – will be replaced.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved the agreement with FAADL.

Finance Report

Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development, presented the April 2014 financial report at the May 19 meeting. That job was previously done by Ken Nieman, associate director of finance, HR and operations, whose last day was May 2. Nieman took a job as CFO for the public library in Sonomo County, California.

Eli Neiburger, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Eli Neiburger.

AADL director Josie Parker thanked Neiburger for stepping in, saying he’s working hard to make this transition seamless for the board. [.pdf of finance report]

Through April 30, the library has received 98.4% of its budgeted tax revenue for the fiscal year. The library had $10.076 million in unrestricted cash at the end of April, with a fund balance of $8.433 million, up from $8.415 million a month ago. Neiburger noted that it’s not common for the fund balance to increase in any given month, but there’ve been several retirements resulting in some open positions, “so salary expenditure is uncommonly low for this month.”

Four line items – purchased services, software, copier expenses, and supplies – are over budget, but are expected to come back in line by the end of AADL’s fiscal year on June 30. Purchased services are slightly over budget because the library paid for a survey in March. Software reflects a $66,000 purchase made every July for a library automation system, and copier expenses include a semi-annual payment made each September. Several supply purchases were made in April to carry through until the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Neiburger noted that these are the same items that are mentioned every month.

There were no questions from the board. Ed Surovell commented that he appreciated the details about the line items that are over budget, saying that it’s helpful for the public to know.

Outcome: This was not a voting item.

Service Contracts

Two service contracts – for janitorial work and HVAC maintenance – were on the agenda for board approval. Both contracts are for three-year periods.

Margaret Leary, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Margaret Leary, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Staff and the facilities committee recommended awarding R.N.A. Janitorial a contract through fiscal 2016-17 for a total of $476,748. The current contract expires on June 30, 2014 – the end of the current fiscal year.

Three bids were received for this work, including one from Pioneer Janitorial. The library currently contracts with both Pioneer and R.N.A. for janitorial services. The bid from Pioneer was significantly higher, at $584,618 for the three-year period. Library staff believed that the lowest bidder – CITI Building Services, at $437,115 – did not understand the full scope of the work. [.pdf of staff memo for janitorial services]

For HVAC equipment maintenance and repair, the board was asked to approve a contract with Shambaugh & Son for $259,240 over a three-year period. Shambaugh was the lowest of three bidders. They also hold the current contract with AADL for this work. The new contract would begin on July 1, 2014. [.pdf of staff memo for HVAC contract]

Service Contracts: Board Discussion

Margaret Leary, chair of the facilities committee, explained that the contract for janitorial services was put out for bids. The library staff had a pre-bid discussion with bidders, and felt that CITI representatives didn’t understand the scope of work for maintaining public buildings like those operated by AADL. She noted that R.N.A.’s bid was significantly lower than Pioneer’s.

The rationale for using two firms in the past – R.N.A. and Pioneer – was that it would provide some flexibility and backup, in case one company wasn’t able to do the work, Leary explained. “As a practical matter, that’s never happened,” she added. It was cheaper to just use R.N.A., and its past work has been satisfactory, she said.

Regarding the HVAC contract, Leary noted that it had also been reviewed by the facilities committee. Shambaugh & Son has provided satisfactory service in the past and was the lowest bidder.

Leary pointed out that the board always has the option of rejecting the bids and re-bidding the work. She stressed that it shows the board is serious about putting items out for bid and considering the financial and performance aspects of the bidders.

Outcome: In separate votes, the board unanimously approved both contracts.

Library Stats

The board is provided with monthly library statistics in five categories: Collections, users, visits, usage and participation. The data is compared to year-ago figures, when available. The information was presented by Eli Neiburger, AADL’s associate director of IT and product development.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL collections data: April 2014.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL users data: April 2014.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL visits data: April 2014.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL usage data: April 2014.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL participation data: April 2014.

Here are some highlights from Neiburger’s commentary:

  • Collections: AADL staff is doing “some serious weeding of parts of the collection that haven’t circulated in a long time,” Neiburger said. So for the first time in many months, the number of books slightly decreased in April compared to March – 415,251 compared to 415,391. It still shows a slight increase compared to a year ago, however. Neiburger noted that Overdrive – a business that provides electronic books to public libraries, which AADL accesses through its membership in the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services – has upgraded recently. The upgrade has made it difficult to tell how many items are in the collection, he said, so this month there’s a question mark for that data point.
  • Users: Thanks to efforts of the outreach department, Neiburger said, the number of business/organization cardholders is up 51% compared to a year ago. On the digital side, the number of unique users of AADL’s website is up 16%. He noted that they weren’t able to identify the number of robots that accessed the site in April, “so score one for the robots.”
  • Visits: Door visits were down in April for all but the Traverwood branch, which Neiburger attributed to the cold weather and snow. The total number of page visits on AADL’s website increased 22%.
  • Usage: Decreases in usage were also attributed to the bad weather in April. Neiburger noted that the 71% drop in webpage usage compared to last year is due to the optimization of pages, resulting in fewer pages per visit. You can view more results on a single page, which causes a drop in the number of webpages viewed. Video usage is up 467%.
  • Participation: Meetups increased 51% in April, due in part to a couple of big events, including FoolMoon, which drew a lot of people despite the foul weather. “We had hail in the middle of the event,” Neiburger said. “I told my staff that the last time I was standing in weather like that and not running away I was wearing a tuba and a marching band uniform.”

Neiburger also gave highlights of some “Top Tweets” that mentioned @aadl during April, and showed a video to promote and explain AADL’s popular summer game. Neiburger noted that the game is “very much about immersing in pop culture,” so there are lots of references to that within the video to explain how the game works. The video is posted on AADL’s website. It was produced by AADL staff and 7 Cylinders Studio.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Screenshot from the AADL’s summer game video. The fourth-floor boardroom of the downtown library has been slightly transformed.

Committee Reports

The board has seven committees: communications, budget and finance, facilities, policy, director’s evaluation, executive, and strategic plan. Because membership on each committee consists of only three trustees, which is fewer than a quorum of the board, the meetings are not required to be open to the public under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. The board has the option of making its committee meetings open to the public, but has chosen not to do so.

On May 19, four committee reports were given – finance, communications, director’s evaluation, and facilities. The director’s evaluation report is summarized earlier in this article.

Committee Reports: Finance

Chair Jan Barney Newman said the finance committee met to discuss the budget and the positions that the library will be filling. She did not elaborate. Other committee members are Barbara Murphy and Nancy Kaplan.

Committee Reports: Communications

Rebecca Head, chair of the communications committee, reported that the committee met on May 9. Other members are Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal. They talked with Krysia Hepatica, the library’s new social media and marketing technician.

Rebecca Head, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rebecca Head.

They also reviewed the AADL newsletter, which is in production and will be mailed soon to residents in AADL’s district. It will focus on recent survey results, she said. [The survey had been conducted in February by EPIC-MRA. The board was briefed on the results by Bernie Porn – president of the Lansing-based firm – at their March 17, 2014 meeting.] The second newsletter will go out in September.

The committee also discussed an upcoming AADL board candidate event that will be held prior to the November 2014 election. That will be discussed in more detail at a later date, Head reported. [This year, terms for three board members expire: Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, and Ed Surovell. In addition, Nancy Kaplan is running for Ward 2 city council in the August Democratic primary. She has indicated that she'll resign from the AADL board if she wins. The library trustees are non-partisan positions.]

Committee Reports: Facilities

Margaret Leary, who chairs the facilities committee, reported that they reviewed several items that were subsequently brought forward as resolutions that night, including recommendations for the downtown building’s front entrance renovation, janitorial services, and an HVAC contract. Other committee members are Ed Surovell and Jan Barney Newman.

Public Commentary

Two people spoke during public commentary on May 19. Don Salberg’s commentary is reported earlier in this article.

Lyn Davidge thanked the board for continuing, as they did last year, to hold their summer meetings at AADL branches. Last summer she noticed that there were new faces at some of those meetings, and good turnouts. As the library thinks of ways to better communicate with the public, it’s important to get out and be visible and make it easier for people to know what the board is doing, she said.

However, Davidge told trustees she’s disappointed that the board is meeting at the branches only three times. So she urged them to look ahead as they set their meeting schedule for 2015, and hold more meetings outside of the downtown location.

Present: Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell.

Absent: Barbara Murphy.

Next regular meeting: Monday, June 16, 2014 at 7 p.m. at the Traverwood Branch, 3333 Traverwood Drive (at Huron Parkway), Ann Arbor. [Check Chronicle event listing to confirm date]

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  1. By Lyn Davidge
    June 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm | permalink

    A reminder to all:

    MONDAY, JUNE 16, 2014

    3333 TRAVERWOOD DRIVE (at Huron Parkway)


    Let’s see a good turnout as the Board goes “on the road” for the summer. It’s a good opportunity for those who have difficulty getting downtown, for whatever reason, to attend, and participate in, the deliberations of a lesser-watched governmental entity but one that’s nevertheless important to our community and that may or may not always be spending tax dollars as we would wish. Whatever your feelings about AADL or Board decisions, it’s important for them to hear directly from YOU!

  2. By Lyn Davidge
    June 15, 2014 at 10:10 pm | permalink

    AADL is justifiably proud of having received the 5-star rating in the Library Journal (LJ) Index of Public Library Service. After unscientifically sampling websites of other “Star Libraries” around the country, I’d guess that every library so designated does at least a little bragging on the fact. So, I risk being designated the June Grinch by saying that I think it’s time to give it a rest, at least ‘til next time.

    The fact is that the data used in selecting Star Libraries is limited and inconsistent. The LJ Index serves a very specific purpose, looking only at per capita library use statistics in four areas: library visits (AADL’s door counts), circulation, program attendance and public internet terminal use. It is an award based on quantity. There are no standardized definitions of the four categories. For example, AADL’s circulation per capita is much higher than that of the other 5 star libraries in its peer budget group. But many if not most of those libraries have some restriction on renewals, and AADL does not. It’s possible that some libraries do not count renewals in their circulation report at all, whereas many, including AADL do.

    It could be argued that the Board was comparing apples to oranges in its allusion to the 5-star ranking in the Director’s evaluation. The evaluation speaks to quality of performance (i.e. the service provided by the Director) while the LJ Index speaks to quantity of usage of certain services.

    Additional information on the LJ Index and the Star Libraries it identifies can be found at: [link]

  3. By Donald Salberg
    June 16, 2014 at 12:55 am | permalink

    While I agree with Lyn Davidge that the AADL should not exaggerate the meaning of its 5 star award from the LIbrary Journal, I do not agree that quantity of services does not reflect on the quality of services. One can argue that if service is poor usage will decline. In this regard quantity is an indirect and variable reflection of quality, which in itself suffers from being subjective.

  4. By Lyn Davidge
    June 16, 2014 at 4:21 pm | permalink

    @3: Right. I did not mean to suggest in any way that quality is lacking at AADL, or that quantity and quality are completely unrelated. I did wish to clarify that the 5-stars are assigned on the basis of certain items of quantitative data, and that Library Journal itself is careful to point this out (see FAQ in link above). Quality is indeed subjective and, I assume, much more difficult to measure. I may be a Grinch, but I’m no statistician!

    See you at the meeting tonight, June 16, readers! 7 PM at Traverwood.

  5. By Fred Zimmerman
    June 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm | permalink

    Having the elevator out of service for months is a serious issue! The tone of the discussion sounds a bit too accepting. WHat happened to the preventative maintenance? There should be some intermediate stages between “working fine” and “out of service for months, $100K to repair.” Does the library need to budget more for preventative maintenance in the future? Does the library need a bigger capital reserve so it can fix this stuff faster? When things are allowed to break this badly and for this long, that is a worrisome sign.