By Tessa Raebeck
After years of planning and months of revisions and setbacks, the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) in Sag Harbor is finally ready to start the excavation of its new addition.
“It really is an exciting time,” Catherine Creedon, the library’s director, said Thursday.
The restoration and expansion of the library’s historic building at 201 Main Street officially began in 2009, but the project has encountered several unforeseen obstacles that stalled its progress.
One of those obstacles occurred when work began on the excavation for the new addition.
Soil borings, tests that evaluate the soil and its ability to support a structure, which were done in the early predesign stages of the project proved inaccurate once the excavation began in August, rendering the original plans to support a 7,000 square-foot addition obsolete.
The initial plan was to support the structure with long finger-like spread footings, a type of shallow foundation that extends beyond the building’s perimeter and transfers building loads close to the earth’s surface. After performing more soil borings, however, the library found several areas of the construction site exhibited lower soil bearing capacity than was initially thought, meaning a deeper foundation was required.
The usual response to such a problem is to simply extend the spread footings further, but longer spread footings would have reached off of the library’s land and onto the neighboring property, 6 Union Street.
“Obviously,” said Creedon, “that wasn’t a possibility.”
The next fix considered was to install conventional driven piles, screw-like poles of either wood, reinforced concrete or steel that are pushed into the ground. Because the library’s village building permit limits the amount of vibration the construction process can create, however, conventional piles turned out to be yet another impossible option.
Working with preservationists, civil engineers, structural engineers and architects — all within the parameter of the building permits and property lines — Creedon went “back and forth with a series of designs” until a plan was finally determined.
“It’s been a journey, but we’re there now,” she said Thursday.
The team has designed and ordered stainless steel helical piles. At 20 feet, they will be driven into the foundation in key places. A header, or concrete beam, runs along the top of the piles.
“The combination of the beam and the helical piles will support the new addition,” said Creedon. “So it’s a great day.”
“I’m so excited,” she added, “to open that new building and so excited at the opportunity to really fully serve the community.”
The new piles will be delivered to the construction site on Friday and twisted into the ground soon after the New Year.
Driving the piles — 80 in total — into the foundation is expected to take two to three weeks. After the header is installed, construction will start on the other walls and the building’s steel support.
Depending on the weather this winter, Sag Harbor residents should be enjoying their new library within the year.
“Our latest schedule,” explained Creedon, “is showing that the substantial completion [will be] in August, so my goal — and I think I tend to be an optimistic person — my goal is to move back in there for the library’s birthday.”
Founded in 1910, the library will celebrate its 104th birthday on October 10, hopefully in its new and improved home.
“And sooner would be great,” adds Creedon.