Cold weather pushes library construction into May

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published April 15, 2015


ROCHESTER — Cold weather has delayed construction on the Rochester Hills Public Library’s 6,600-square-foot addition, pushing the project completion date into May.

The work began on the $1.6 million addition in September, and officials had initially hoped to wrap the project up by the end of April. But frigid temperatures delayed the exterior brickwork by about three weeks, Library Director Christine Lind Hage explained.

“We had such cold weather that we delayed doing the brickwork because we were going to have to heat the outside to put the brickwork on, which was really expensive,” she said. “If you don’t have the heat right, then the water doesn’t set up right. It’s most important that the bottom mortar be warmer and stronger first, because you are putting weight on it as you go up the wall. ... It was a bitter cold winter, and when you have to heat the outside of a wall, you don’t want to do that when it is 9 below. It’s so much cheaper to wait until it is 40 degrees.”

Once complete, the addition will pull the south edge of the building out, so patrons can drive up next to the building rather than making four 90-degree turns to access the drive-up book return area. The additional space inside the first floor of the building will allow for the installation of an automated materials handling system, which Hage said will be installed April 20.

The new system, which she said the library will begin using in May, will immediately check in returned items and sort the materials by collections. Until then, patrons must continue to use the temporary outdoor book return outside the library’s west entrance or return items inside the building.

The new second-floor addition will be used for online and in-library book sales organized by the Friends of the Rochester Hills Public Library beginning in September. In 2014, Hage said, book sales generated more than $100,000 of the $175,000 that the Friends gave to the library.

Outside, construction staging has been eating up a portion of the library’s south parking lot — approximately 35 spaces — for months, making it challenging at times for patrons to find parking spaces. Until the lot opens up in May, Hage said, the post office has offered a portion of its south lot, along University — not in front of the post office — for library parking.

“We probably have about two weeks of outdoor work that they can’t start until the frost laws are lifted,” she said.

Frost laws, otherwise known as seasonal restrictions on traffic weight limits on roads subject to thaw weakening, are aimed at protecting local roads during the annual spring cycle of freezing and thawing.  Frost laws — typically in effect between March and May — can lower legal axle weights of vehicles.

During the parking lot construction, Hage said, crews will spend two days installing a “swirl tank,” which she said operates along the lines of a septic tank, filtering stormwater before it hits the creek. The gutters and concrete around the tank will take a week to cure, she explained, adding that new light-emitting diode, or LED, lights will be installed in the existing light posts in the south parking lot.

“Although we’d like the project to finish earlier, we want to do it right and be financially responsible,” library board President Douglas Tull said in a statement. 

The $1.6 million project will be paid for from the library’s fund balance, leaving around $1 million still in the fund balance. The architectural firm TMP Associates Inc. of Bloomfield Hills designed the project, which is being constructed by Frank Rewold & Son of Rochester. Both of the firms worked on the original building in 1992.