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Cost of downtown library fix expected this week, timeline for repairs also coming

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BATON ROUGE – The city-parish expects to have an estimate on the cost to fix the downtown library debacle before the Labor Day holiday, officials said in an update on the situation Tuesday.

The August 28th memo from city officials comes about three weeks since engineers revealed the best solution for dealing with the structural issues at the River Center Branch Library site.

Engineers will lift separated structural parts of the downtown library and weld them back in place.

“Once lifted in place, the remaining remedial work can be performed and inspected. Additional knee bracing, and further roof deck and roof joist inspections will be performed,” architects said in a statement released through the city’s spokesperson.

Supplemental roof framing may be required.

After all additional work is complete, the hydraulic jacks that support a cantilevered section of the building will be removed.

Once jacks are gone, construction will continue on the project.

Engineers said they expect to have a cost estimate and timeline available at the end of the week (by Friday, August 31). The city has vowed not to pay for costs associated with the structural connection “separations” at places where columns intersect that occurred in April.

The two statements – the first week in August and the most recent – are the first public comments by design firm WHLC Architecture.

At the beginning of August, designers outlined a more detailed explanation of what happened – two structural connection “separations” where columns connect. The separations were at the top of two of the four large structural trusses holding up the library.

The bizarre, futuristic design of the building includes a cantilevered section of the building that protrudes high above the sidewalk with no columns below. Temporarily, big, red jacks are wedged between the ground and this section of the building to hold up the structure.

Designers explained the plan is to keep the jacks there to keep the structure from sagging. As the jacks counter the deflect – or lift the building back into its intended shape – additional bracing, plating and welding will be added to ensure the permanent integrity of the library building.

The now infamous project has taken on a life of its own and might end up in court.

In a dogged investigation by WBRZ’s watchdog journalism team The Investigative Unit, it was found city officials are already mounting a possible court battle.

“The matter is considered in litigation,” a city attorney told WBRZ in early July.

"Because there is the potential for litigation, we will not comment further and have asked the Mayor’s office not to comment.  We are still in the information gathering phase and, of course, hope to resolve the matter amicably," head city attorney Lea Anne Batson added. 

WBRZ previously reported the city-parish is withholding payments to the architect. 

WHLC is confident the repairs will work.

“The final details and sequence to permanently remediate the building's structure have been through several rounds of peer review and responses, and is on the way to being finalized.  The primary goal of all parties involved is to ensure the project continues to move forward to completion at the consensus of the assembled experts.”

“Once complete, the architectural features of the River Center Branch Library project will be as originally designed.” 

Read the novel of the library debacle 

Litigation coming

Damaged design areas

City won't pay architect's library bills 

Get ready for the library to be more expensive 

Inside voices, please - Library officials use exclamations in frustrated emails about WBRZ knowing more than them

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Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

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