Discarding the damage

Workers with ServPro, a restoration agency, discard the Stowe Free Library’s entire adult collection of books and other items. Analysis showed a severe water leak had damaged the items beyond repair, said Cindy Weber, the library director.

The Helen Day building — home to Stowe Free Library and the Helen Day Art Center — is ready for a fresh start.

Computers are ready for public use at the library’s satellite location at the Akeley Memorial Building, but it could be weeks before books are set up there, said Cindy Weber, director of the Stowe Free Library.

The satellite location is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Helen Day building is closed because of severe flooding Dec. 10 caused by a sprinkler malfunction.

The sprinkler burst at about 5:15 a.m. and ran for about 25 minutes before Stowe Fire Department crews discovered the problem and shut off the water. By that time, about 10 inches of water had accumulated in the basement, after running down the walls of the second-floor art center and the first-floor library.

Weber said Friday further investigation showed the library’s entire adult collection — fiction and nonfiction books and audio recordings — was destroyed and has to be replaced.

In the meantime, Stowe library patrons can head to the Waterbury Public Library, Varnum Memorial Library in Jeffersonville, Johnson Public Library, Lanpher Memorial Library in Hyde Park and Morristown Centennial Library, all of which have welcomed Stowe residents since the flooding, said Gizelle Guyette, director of the Morristown library.

Replacement cost

Wednesday, town officials received official notice of how much replacing the library’s collection would cost.

Weber said 15,708 items were destroyed, at a total cost of $411,691.50.

Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which provides the town of Stowe’s municipal insurance, will reimburse up to 40 percent of that — $160,579.40.

It’ll be up to the town to come up with the rest of that money, said Charles Safford, Stowe’s town manager.

The Stowe Select Board typically budgets $47,000 per year for library materials.

Friends of the Stowe Free Library, a non-profit auxiliary that raises money for the library, is collecting donations.

Ready for restoration

The Helen Day building has been stripped back as far as it can go, and now it’s time to rebuild, said Jeff Fields, who owns ServPro, a restoration company franchise based in Winooski and Stowe.

On Wednesday, Jan. 2, construction crews, state inspectors and electricians descended on the building at 90 Pond St. to ascertain next steps.

Fields, who oversaw the drying of the building, says he had an average of six workers at the building every day for two weeks, drying the building out and stripping back layers of walls and ceilings until they could find no more damp spots.

The Stowe Free Library was founded in 1904 at the Akeley Memorial Building, and moved to the building at 90 Pond St. in 1981, Weber said.

The building at 90 Pond St. dates back to 1861, and it housed District No. 6 Village School, which served as both a village school and a high school.

In 1893, Stowe High School took over the building, and operated there until 1973. The building narrowly escaped demolition, and was reborn as the library and art center.

Fields said while restoration will be difficult, the damage was far less severe than what he saw after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Nevertheless, “it was pretty bad, due to all the books that were wet, and knowing it was an older building, I knew it was going to be very challenging. When you have an old building like that, there was drywall and insulation and tongue-and-groove boards with plaster and lath,” all of which restoration workers had to contend with, Fields said.

The building is also framed similarly to post-and-beam construction, with large beams that go all the way up to the second floor. Walls aren’t studded, and wet spots could hide anywhere along those beams.

“Once we removed the insulation from the walls, you can literally look up the wall cavity from the second floor right down to the first floor. We knew where the water was, but we had to get back through multiple layers to make certain it was all taken care of. That was very challenging,” Fields said.

Fields’ crew used thermal energy cameras, moved along the walls, to determine where water was hiding.

Colder spots meant wet spots, and crews meticulously checked every wall and joint.

But the cameras, while effective, aren’t the same as the human eye.

“When you have a multitude of layers of walls, you have to manually remove all the walls to see what’s behind them,” Fields said.

“We knew where the pipe broke and we knew what walls had to be examined thoroughly,” and each had to be opened up to allow it to dry.

Freezing temperatures hindered workers’ efforts. In places, wet insulation froze to the walls, and Fields and his crew had to use a high-powered vacuum to try to remove it.

Dust in the air from the damaged plaster and lath made it difficult to breathe, and the ServPro team ran six air scrubbers, placed throughout the building, the entire time they were at work.

“That was very dusty. Not fun,” Fields said.

It’s likely as the building is restored, workers will use foam insulation instead of plaster and lath, Fields said.

As of today, the building is “ready to be put back together,” Fields said.

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