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Portage Public Library Director Debbie Bird was glad to see overgrown weeds and dying plants hauled away by volunteers Saturday as part of a bigger project to update the building exterior for the first time in more than two decades.

“We definitely needed a face-lift,” Bird said while laughing.

She credited Portage Library Board Trustee Klay Vehring with spearheading the effort and organizing an update to the building by enlisting a landscaper. The full project will cost about $3,000. The work of volunteers will save the library about $30,000, Bird said.

“We asked the community to get behind us and they certainly have,” she said.

But the task isn’t done, and Bird said to accomplish all the work needed before landscaping can begin by the professionals, she needs at least as many volunteers (about 10) to work from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. She acknowledged it may be more difficult to attract help because the library will have to compete with the Taste of Portage Market Fair.

City Administrator Shawn Murphy was one of the volunteers pulling weeds and digging in the dirt Saturday.

“I thought it was a great idea,” he said. “It was needed.”

The city provided two trucks as well, which Bird said made it easier for volunteers and library organizers to dispose of the materials properly.

Murphy said he appreciated the food and the company over the weekend, but has a schedule conflict and won’t be able to help again this weekend.

Bird said the library hasn’t updated its landscaping in 25 years.

“The plants had just gotten away from us,” she said. “A lot of the bigger shrubs, and even some of the trees, had literally died.”

The project will allow Portage landscape designer Joel Engelland to see his work installed by mid-September. Edgewater Home & Garden of Portage will place the trees and other plants. Bird said fall is the best time for planting because the plants will have a stable season to settle before winter hits.

Meanwhile, work on the library’s fire sprinkler system could begin as early as Sept. 10, Bird said. She plans to meet Wednesday with representatives from Madison-based Dave Jones Inc. Fire Protection. The sprinklers in the ceiling of the adult and teen sections of the library will be replaced.

The work will result in portions of the library being closed for undetermined amounts of time, with certain materials relocated to other spaces within the building. Bird said the project will have three phases, and though they have not been firmly scheduled, she said the work needs to be completed by Jan. 24.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget.

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