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A/C thieves strike south suburban pre-school

Updated: July 12, 2012 3:43PM

First a library, now a preschool — thieves have made off with another large air conditioning unit in the south suburbs, this time from an early childhood learning facility in Blue Island.

It’s thought that sometime late last week, someone climbed onto the roof of the William Leonard Public Library at 13820 Central Park Ave. in Robbins, and stole the library’s HVAC unit. That left the library -- which conducts kids’ programs, adult literacy and computer programs, and serves as a cooling center -- without air conditioning, and a replacement likely to exceed $10,000.

On Thursday, officials of Cook County School District 130 reported a prekindergarten school in Blue Island, about a mile from the Robbins library, also had its rooftop unit stolen.

District officials and police believe the unit was taken from the Horace Mann School at 2975 W. Broadway in Blue Island sometime earlier this week, according to district spokeswoman Stephanie Fordice. A staff member noticed on Wednesday that the building was warm, and when a repairman went up to the roof to check the HVAC, he found it was gone.

“This had to be people who knew what they were doing,” Fordice said. “It was a large rooftop unit.”

No children have been in the building since school was let out for summer break, but Fordice said it would take a few weeks to get the unit replaced.

Noting the two thefts and the close proximity of targets, Fordice said, “for them to hit up a library and a school ... it’s terrible.”

The theft of the library’s air conditioner “is devastating” to the financially strapped library district, administrator Priscilla Coatney said. “We are insured, but we have a deductible to pay. We were in dire financial straits. We’ve been able to hang on, but it’s been difficult. I don’t have money for a deductible.”

Coatney brought in some fans on her own Tuesday, and on Thursday people from Lydia Healthcare, a longterm care facility in Robbins, brought in more.

Additionally, she has gotten calls from the public since the story appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times. She was sorting through the offers of help as of Thursday afternoon, and said anyone who wants to help can send a check to the library or just drop by with donations.

“The public is starting to respond and that’s a wonderful thing,” Coatney said.

She said that in addition to the stolen unit, which was only four years old, the library had another, smaller unit, which had recently died. “I’m going to have to get two units,” she said. “When it rains it pours.”

Still, she was heartened by the public’s response.

“There are more good people than bad,” she said.

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