By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
ASHUELOT — One of Winchester’s two public libraries remains closed three months after two floods damaged mechanical systems in the building’s basement and likely caused paint and oil contamination.
Selectmen Chairwoman Roberta A. Fraser said late last week that town officials want to reopen Thayer Public Library soon, but repair work is on hold until the probable oil and paint spills in the basement, which has a dirt floor, are addressed.
She said she doesn’t have a time frame for when the library will reopen, but town officials will hopefully know more this week about the scope of work and when repairs can start.
The library is on Ashuelot Main Street (Route 119) in Winchester’s village of Ashuelot. It’s on the first floor of a historic two-story house, which was donated to the town by Julia Thayer in 1906 for the purpose of being used as a library.
The house is at the base of a hill that torrents of water rushed down during heavy rains on the late night and early morning of July 15. Heavy rains also caused flooding in the area June 26.
The town’s other library, the Conant Public Library, is at 111 Main St. in Winchester.
Frank J. Amarosa 3rd, chairman of the Thayer Library Trustees, said this morning that about 12 cans of paint and paint thinner were stored in the basement when flooding on July 15 caused them to float. All the cans were closed, but there is concern some of the materials inside them leaked out, he said.
During the first flood, which was in June, 52 inches of water filled the basement of the 210-year-old building, and twisted the building’s two heating oil tanks, Amarosa said. On advice from an insurance adjuster, the tanks were emptied, he said.
When the next flood came, 60 inches, or 5 feet, of water filled the cellar, and the tanks were damaged further, he said.
Town Administrator Shelly Walker said the furnace was running during the first flood, and some residual oil is believed to have leaked out onto the surface of the water. When the water receded, the oil would have gone onto the dirt floor, she said.
The N.H. Department of Environmental Services has become involved, she said.
Town officials also don’t know how much paint and paint thinner may have spilled, and therefore how much contaminated dirt will have to be replaced, she said.
The town has hired StoneHill Environmental of Portsmouth to assist in assessing the situation, she said.
As for paying for cleanup and repairs, Winchester officials expect to receive $10,000 from the town’s insurance company, and are applying for state funding to cover anything beyond that, Fraser said. At this time, they don’t have an estimate of the total cost, she said.
Once the environmental cleanup is done, other flood-related repairs can be made, including to the library’s handicap-access ramp, and some lights and smoke detectors, Walker said.
The windows to the library’s basement need to be replaced, Amarosa said, as well as the two oil tanks, the hot water heater and the boiler and controls for it, he said.
The also plan to have 18-inch high wells installed in front of the basement windows to prevent water coming off the hill from entering the building in the future, he said.
“Both events had tremendous amounts of rain,” he said. “The building had never had water like that before.”
The Thayer Public Library means a lot to the village, and the Winchester community as a whole, and prior to the flooding, he’d been working to strengthen its programs and offerings, Amarosa said.
The library was also open during days and hours when the Conant Public Library was closed.
“There was a library in Winchester open seven days a week. If it wasn’t in Winchester, it was in Ashuelot,” he said.
Like town officials, he is hopeful the Thayer Public Library will come back soon.
“It’s pretty straightforward. We’re just waiting — waiting on the paper work so we can get going,” he said. “We just have to stay closed until we get it fixed.”
Meghan Foley can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MFoleyKS.