Sections of HPL addition have moved up to 2.5 inches, says assessment

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Sections of HPL addition have moved up to 2.5 inches, says assessment
Work by engineers has indicated that the Hudson Public Library building is shifting. The shift can be slightly visible looking at the top of the bookshelves. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

HUDSON – Four months ago, at the Jan. 22 meeting of the Select Board, Library Director Aileen Sanchez-Himes introduced the possibility of applying for a library construction grant with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) in order to address the structural issues at the Hudson Public Library.

At Town Meeting a capital request of $150,000, which is a requirement of the MBLC, was approved. In January, Sanchez-Himes noted that the state could offer 50%, up to the amount of $100,000, toward the planning and design of a construction project.

At the May 20 Select Board meeting, the board voted to confirm the site options for a potential library expansion or construction at 2-4 Washington St. and 8 River St., as it was needed to apply for the MBLC grant.

When the question of whether the town is building a new library came up, Select Board Chair Scott Duplisea clarified they were looking at the fact there is a building with structural problems that the town needs to examine.

“This is just preliminary right now. We had to know where we stood. We had to get this done,” said Duplisea.

Sanchez-Himes said they want to ideally stay at their current location, but they do have to consider a second location in the grant application.

She said, “Our hope is that with everything that we present to the state that we ultimately stay where we are.”

Conditions assessment

Also during the meeting, Sanchez-Himes and Marie Sorenson, a lead designer and architect at Sorenson Partners, presented the data from the conditions assessment and what options the town had in terms of addressing the issue at hand.

Sanchez-Himes said the library has been working with Sorenson since last fall to complete the assessment. Sorenson surveyed the original library building that was built in 1904 and the 1966 addition, highlighting the major findings from the report.

“The good news is that a portion of the library is sitting on part ledge, and so it has a pretty stable foundation. It’s sitting there pretty solidly,” said Sorenson.

She noted there is energy inefficiency within the building, and the wiring is old. The f lat roof also has leaks, and the handicapped accessibility is limited due to the front steps and a side ramp that is too steep.

In terms of the building addition, it was not constructed on a suitable foundation system, in which the subgrade is not suitable to the standard required by working licensed structural engineers. The foundation has settled differentially, causing cracking of the façade and building movement in sections of the north stair tower and expansion joint to the original building.

The addition was “designed by two local architects” at the time, she said.

According to Tripi Engineering Services and McPhail Associates, there has been movement of up to 2.5 inches in the addition. The settlement of the ground floor foundations is understood to have caused repeated bursting and cracking of heating steam pipes that are attached to the structure.

She said the settlement was observed to be two inches over 15 feet by a contractor, and in almost 60 years the effects of the settlement have been seen in the past 10 to 20 years.

Sorenson expressed concern about doing upgrades to the addition and recommended that “rectifying the critical deficiencies or undertaking facility improvements listed in the conditions assessment should be pursued for this portion only on a short-term planning horizon” to protect the public health and safety.

She was also concerned about the amount of pressure on the brick masonry bearing wall at the joint where the original Carnegie building meets the 1966 addition if the settlement reached five inches over many years.

“So if it’s moved two and a half inches already, well how are you going to wait for it to move the remaining two and a half inches and slip off?” said Sorenson.

Duplisea confirmed with Sorenson there was “nothing that’s been noted as catastrophic,” he said, but it was a possibility. She clarified that major upgrades were not recommended.

She said, “I don’t think you should be investing long term in that building.”

Sorenson had better news for the Carnegie building, or original library building, including that improvements like electrical upgrades and fixing the PVC membrane roof could be done.

“That’s the major finding we wanted to share with you,” she said.

Duplisea said what she had reported to them confirmed his assumptions about the structural status of the Hudson Public Library and its addition.

“Obviously, it’s going to take some money to fix it up, but it’s just like our Town Hall. It’s constant maintenance, but … you just don’t have buildings like that anymore,” said Duplisea.

Sorenson said, “It’s beautiful.”

Duplisea said he had not been fully aware of the issues at the library and was “dismayed to hear” about them, but that they would have to be handled.

He said, “I’m hoping that maybe there’s funding and grants out there … that we can tap into.”

Sanchez-Himes noted the importance of maintaining the building because “if we allow it to let itself go, then we’re not eligible for the grant we’re trying to do.”

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