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Thieves Target Rooftop Air-Conditioners At Robbins Library, Blue Island School

Updated 7/12/2012 at 5:15 p.m.

ROBBINS, Ill. (CBS) -- A public library in Robbins and a school in nearby Blue Island have been hit by air-conditioner thieves.

The Robbins building normally serves as a cooling center during the summer heat, but not now, WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger reports.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger reports


It took some work – probably a couple of hours' worth – as the thief or thieves dismantled the air conditioning unit. They cut wires and made off with the condenser and cooling elements, the SouthtownStar reported.

The stolen air conditioner "is a commercial unit that cools over 5,000 square feet," Library administrator Priscilla Coatney said. The dismantling "was done very neatly. If you go on the roof you can see the screws — they left them in a nice pile. They didn't tear it up, they just gutted it.

Coatney tells the newspaper the theft is a devastating loss for the William Leonard Public Library District, which is struggling financially as it is.

Meanwhile, customized air-conditioners at Horace Mann School in Blue Island were stripped of copper components Tuesday evening or overnight.

"The units were basically completely dismantled, and all the copper and components in them (were) taken out," school official Allan McDonald told CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot Thursday.

McDonald says the thieves must have been familiar with the mechanics of air-conditioning. He said the copper stolen wasn't worth more than $1,000, but replacing the units will cost $50,000 or more.

While the Robbins library air conditioner is insured, Coatney says the library cannot afford the deductible.

Coatney said the library got the HVAC unit four years ago through a grant from their state representative and Secretary of State Jesse White's office, and at the time it cost about $9,300. She imagines a replacement will cost more.

In addition to being a place where school children go after class, the library conducts literacy and computer classes for children and adults, hosts book clubs, and serves as a cooling center in summer and warming center in winter.

"I have approximately 30-35 children every day reading," Coatney said. She explained that the computer access the library provides residents with is especially valuable because "less than 70 percent of homes have computers and less than 20 percent have an Internet connection."

A group of community members have offered a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of whoever stole the unit.

District 130 hopes to have units installed by the fall at the school. The district says both Robbins and Blue Island Police are investigating.

A suburban company says it is interested in helping the library.

The SouthtownStar contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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