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Oct 17, 2008 3:47 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Free Library reopens after a four-week delay

Oct 17, 2008 3:47 PM

After a four-week delay, the trailer that will serve as the temporary home for the Westhampton Free Library for the next 18 months opened its doors to the public on Friday and, a few days later, demolition work began on the library annex on Library Avenue in the village.

The library, which will be replaced by a new $7.8 million, two-story structure, has been shuttered since September 6 and was originally scheduled to reopen at its new, temporary location on September 22. However, the trailer opening was delayed while library officials waited to secure access to public water and obtain the necessary approvals from both Suffolk County and Westhampton Beach Village.

On Friday, Library Director Matt Bollerman said that the Suffolk County Department of Health Services granted the library approval on the temporary location at 28 Library Avenue and, soon after, the library secured a certificate of occupancy from the village.

“I’m very happy that we’re open and ready to provide library service to the community,” Mr. Bollerman said on Friday. “It was a little longer than we hoped to get it going, but I think people will be very happy when they come to get service from us.”

Demolition began on Monday on the library’s annex, located directly north of the main library at 5 Library Avenue. The annex once housed an old hardware store.

Library officials had been awaiting the completion of asbestos removal from the old library and annex before starting demolition work. The last of the asbestos was removed on Saturday, Mr. Bollerman said. Library officials had anticipated the need for asbestos removal since the beginning of the renovation project, noting that the library is 100 years old.

The library will now operate out of the 5,040-square-foot modular trailer for at least the next 18 months as the new 14,250-square-foot library at 7 Library Avenue is constructed. Library district taxpayers approved the $7.8 million expansion project last fall.

When library officials first presented plans on the renovation project, they stated that construction work would begin this past spring. But the discovery of petroleum contamination at the temporary location delayed officials from obtaining the necessary approvals for the placement of the modular trailer. The contamination required extensive remediation and approvals from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services as well.

On Monday, Barry Brown of Guillo Construction Corporation said it will take between four and five days to finish the demolition of the library annex. Mr. Bollerman said the demolition of the main library building will begin as soon as the annex is razed.

Officials with Southampton-based Guillo Construction will complete the entire library demolition; they were hired as a sub-contractor by Southampton-based Sandpebble Builders, the construction managers for the library project.

Mr. Brown estimated that the demolition of the old library will take anywhere from 10 days to two weeks to finish once it commences.

He noted that those interested in watching the demolition will not see a wrecking ball taking down the building. Rather, the company will be utilizing a hydraulic excavator to do the job.

“It’s more practical and efficient—you can control it better,” Mr. Brown said about the hydraulic excavator.

The temporary trailer will be open from 9:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays, the same hours as the old library, Mr. Bollerman said.

Library Trustee Hank Tucker, who also sits on the Westhampton Beach Village Board, said on Monday that the library had to place some items from its collection in storage as the temporary trailer measures only 5,040 square feet. The main library building totals 7,000 square feet.

Mr. Bollerman explained that the majority of the library’s nonfiction books for children and adults were placed in storage. All adult fiction, mysteries, DVDs, audio books, magazines and newspapers, as well as children’s fiction and DVDs, are available in the trailer.

Additionally, Mr. Bollerman did note that if library patrons wish to borrow a nonfiction book that is now in storage, library staffers can retrieve it for them and have it sent to the temporary location.

“It’s not ideal for patrons because if they want to get a book, it’s not readily available,” Mr. Bollerman said. “We also don’t have any meeting room space and we’re continuing to use spaces around the community.”

In spite of these drawbacks, library patrons and staffers said they are happy to finally have their community resource up and running.

“We’re very happy to be open,” said Nola Thacker, the program coordinator for the library, on Friday. “We moved all the books and stuff ourselves, which was quite an adventure and a lot of exercise.

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