AUGUSTA — Part of the recently expanded Lithgow Public Library was damaged by snow that had accumulated and took out parapets on the roof’s gable ends, prompting the need for repairs and discussions about a way to prevent it from happening again.

With heavy snow in recent weeks, followed by warmer weather, a lot of snow had accumulated and frozen solid on the roof. In particular, the snow stuck in the valleys between the roof peaks on the library, which had reopened in August 2016 after an $11 million expansion and renovation.

Sometime between when the library closed Saturday and when it reopened Monday, snow that had piled up on the Pleasant Street side of the building let go and slid down the roof, apparently in a large, heavy mass. When it came down, it took pieces of the gables from two spots of the roof just above the children’s area of the library with it, ripping down some pre-cast concrete pieces, metal flashing and a little bit of insulation, according to Elizabeth Pohl, library director.

No interior damage occurred and no one was hurt by the falling snow or building materials, Pohl said.

But she said it may take some time to fix the damage, in part because new, replacement pre-cast concrete pieces will have to be ordered and because the masonry work can be tricky to do in cold weather.

For now, both spots are covered by tarps and sealed up to prevent water or snow from getting inside the structure.

Tarps cover spots where masonry and roof flashing are missing Thusday on the west side of the new addition of Lithgow Public Library in Augusta. The roof was damaged recently by sliding ice and snow. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

John Scott, owner of J.F. Scott Construction, the Winthrop-based firm that built the library, said the bricks that were knocked off can be replaced with bricks left over on the job; but some pieces, such as cast-concrete caps, must be specially made, which could take a few to several weeks. Scott said his firm determined the damage was cosmetic, no water infiltrated the building, and there is no real concern about additional damage, so the planned repairs can safely wait.

Pohl said J.F. Scott has had someone assess the damage and begin putting together an estimate of the cost to fix it. She said she believes the repairs will be covered by a warranty, but she wasn’t yet sure.

Scott said they’re still looking into the problem and haven’t determined the exact cause yet. He said if the damage occurred because of a workmanship issue “we’d certainly cover that.” But not yet knowing what caused the damage, he said it is hard to say at this point whether the cost of repair would be covered by a warranty.

Pohl said such an incident could happen again if changes aren’t made, so officials will look at making changes on the roof to prevent snow from sliding off all at once, and damaging the building or potentially even falling on top of someone walking below it.

“We’ll have discussions about how to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Pohl said.

Scott said part of his company’s analysis of how to repair the damage will include an assessment of what caused it.

“We’ll figure out exactly what let go and, when we put the pieces back in, that we accommodate that potential (snow) load,” Scott said. “As part of the repair, we’ll evaluate what the cause was and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Pohl said potential solutions could include modifications to the roof to prevent snow from sliding off all at once, and/or to melt the snow more gradually. She said it isn’t yet known what entity would pay for changes to prevent similar incidents.

She said the roof’s height and pitch would make it unsafe to put a person out on it to shovel it off after snowstorms.

Pohl said snow also built up in similar valleys in the roof on the opposite, State Street side of the new sections of the building, but it didn’t cause damage when it fell off.

Tarps cover up spots where masonry and roof flashing are missing Thursday after sliding snow damaged the west side of the new addition of Lithgow Public Library in Augusta. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Scott said the area that was damaged is a bit different from the gables on the State Street side of the building, and he doesn’t anticipate there will be problems on those other sections of roof.

The older, original section of the building also has snow build-up on its roof; but that part of the 125-year-old building is made of granite and appears more than able to handle the snow without being damaged.

The area where the snow fell on the Pleasant Street side of the library was blocked off Thursday by cones and yellow tape, and a sawhorse blocked access along the State Street side of the building. The main entrance remained clear and accessible, and Pohl said the roof incident has had “zero” impact on operations at the library this week — a busy, school vacation week.

The library was closed for one day last week when a trained dog found a bedbug in a stack of large-print books directly across from the circulation desk.

Pohl said overall, she, the library staff and library users seem happy with the renovated and expanded library, but there have been some new-building quirks they’re still trying to work out.

They include a software-controlled lighting system, which, in some lesser-used areas of the library, such as within the stacks of books, have sensors that shut the lights off if nobody is in that area. However, sometimes, and inexplicably only on Fridays and Saturdays, Pohl said, the sensors in those areas seem to take control of the lights in the common areas of the library, which are otherwise left on all day, and they shut them off.

Also, the library staff at times has had difficulty getting doors to the library to lock manually when they need to be locked at nonstandard times, such as when the library closes at an unusual time.

“We’ve had no major issues, just some small things that don’t really impact operations,” Pohl said of problems after the expansion and renovation. “This (snow damage) was the first big blip since we’ve been living here. For the staff, it’s such a better place to work, and we’re able to do so much more for the public in this building. It can be fixed, that’s the good news.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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