Officials at the St. Charles Parish Library report contractors repairing the library’s West Bank Regional location, situated on Lakewood Drive, continue to make solid progress, with Hurricane Ida repair work expected to complete sometime late summer.
The parish hired Baton Rouge-based construction firm Dynamic Group, LLC to repair and renovate widespread damage the building sustained following Hurricane Ida.
“Out of our six locations across the parish, [the West Regional Library] had the most damage by far,” Lauren Pitz, St. Charles Parish Library Assistant Director, explained. “The roof as well as an exterior wall on the second floor came down during the storm.”
The roof and wall damage caused extensive damage to the entire second floor of the West Regional Library, along with the first floor underneath. Parish officials pegged the damage caused by Hurricane Ida to the West Bank Regional Library alone to be around $1.8 million.
The West Bank Regional Library’s Louisiana Collection, a collection of historical books and documents, were kept on the 2nd floor and received extensive damage given the proximity to the building’s roof. Special care was taken to prevent further damage and help preserve the books and documents. Only four days after the storm, work began to try to save as much of the collection as possible.
“With assistance of Quality Cleaning Equipment and Supplies, 3,706 items were removed,” Pitz said regarding the Louisiana Collection. “These items were carried down the stairs, inventoried and put into a freezer truck to dry them out without causing more damage.”
After drying the books out, they were sent off to a specialized book restoration company in Delaware who cleaned and irradiated the books. The result of their efforts meant all the collection’s local history books were saved, which are currently stored at the Hahnville Branch. Despite extensive Hurricane Ida damage, only 10 percent of the materials in the Louisiana Collection were considered irreparable and lost from the storm.
One bright spot for the West Bank Regional Library is its Lakewood location will receive a few building upgrades once work is complete, courtesy of Hurricane Ida.
“We’ve been able to get improved lighting in areas of the library as well as a more open and visible children’s area,” Pitz said. “The design of the new roof was also modified to help with drainage.”
West Bank Regional Library did not require drastic renovations with this project, since it had undergone a major renovation in 2017, when many portions of the building were upgraded at that time.
Work on the $1.152 million repair and renovation project began with demolition in December 2021, with the roof and gutting work being finished in January 2022. Pitz said progress on the West Regional Library has been steady – walls, ceiling, electrical work are now mostly complete. Lighting, elevator repairs, countertops and flooring still need to be completed before furniture can be installed and books brought back from storage and placed onto shelves again. Shelving and new furniture orders have already been placed in anticipation of the upcoming project completion, Pitz commented. Additional orders of furniture and equipment will be placed soon by parish officials.
“Once everything is open and we have all of our rooms back, and the elevators are up and running, we are definitely planning…to invite everyone over, see the renovations and fixes that we’ve made,” Pitz said. “We’re excited to get back to normal.”