Li­brary closed

Con­cern at earth­quake risk fac­tor

Waikato News - - Front Page - Danielle Ni­chol­son­chol­

Hamil­ton's cen­tral li­brary was closed on Tues­day morn­ing amid con­cerns over its seis­mic strength­en­ing.

Hamil­ton City Coun­cil de­cided to close the li­brary af­ter it re­ceived a de­tailed seis­mic as­sess­ment of the build­ing in the last few days that re­vealed a part of the build­ing is only at 15 per cent of new build stan­dard (NBS) and re­quires re­me­dial work.

While other ar­eas of the build­ing rated higher— some as high as 100 per cent— the 15 per cent rat­ing brings the whole build­ing's rat­ing down to 15 per cent over­all.

Coun­cil has been pro­vided with an in­di­ca­tion of a re­pair method for the build­ing, which in­volves in­stalling car­bon-fi­bre strips to con­nect the 15 per cent part to the rest of the struc­ture.

Coun­cil's gen­eral man­ager com­mu­nity Lance Ver­voort said the work was ex­pected to costs hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars and was un­bud­geted.

It was not known how long the build­ing, which was built in 1973, would be closed for but coun­cil em­pha­sised the clo­sure was “tem­po­rary and pre­cau­tion­ary”.

Ver­voort said coun­cil with have to go through a plan­ning process first and con­sider op­tions from engi­neers. It would then need to get con­sent for the re­me­dial work.

The area of con­cern is on the top of the third floor which pri­mar­ily houses her­itage ma­te­rial, back-of-house staff and func­tional ar­eas such as a kitch­enette. It sits above pub­lic ar­eas on the sec­ond floor of the build­ing.

Ver­voort said the “build­ing is not un­safe but it could be in a seis­mic event”.

“That's where the risk is. If the floor went [in an seis­mic event] it could cas­cade through and cause a cat­a­strophic out­come on floors be­low it.”

More than 40 li­brary staff are af­fected by the clo­sure. Some of them have been re­as­signed to sub­ur­ban li­braries while others will be shifted to the Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing.

Just over 279,000 cus­tomers went through the Cen­tral Li­brary in the 2015/2016 fi­nan­cial year— an av­er­age of 5365 each week.

A pop-up li­brary will open in about two weeks in coun­cil's re­cep­tion lounge on the ground floor of the Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing.

In Oc­to­ber Hamil­ton News sought de­tails about coun­cil's fa­cil­i­ties main­te­nance plans and seis­mic and struc­tural sound­ness for more than a dozen coun­cilowned build­ings and as­sets.

How­ever, coun­cil's pri­vacy advisor de­clined to re­lease the in­for­ma­tion un­der the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion and Meet­ings Act.

“It is in­tended that a re­port be pre­sented to coun­cil at its pub­lic meet­ing in Fe­bru­ary 2017, out­lin­ing fa­cil­i­ties main­te­nance and man­age­ment of coun­cil's phys­i­cal as­sets. As this re­port is ex­pected to cover the in­for­ma­tion that would be in­cor­po­rated into a re­sponse to your ques­tions the in­for­ma­tion is be­ing with­held at this time as the in­for­ma­tion re­quested is, or will soon be, pub­licly avail­able,” it said.

The news­pa­per has since laid a com­plaint with the Of­fice of the Om­buds­man about coun­cil not pro­vid­ing the re­quested in­for­ma­tion and the Om­buds­man has con­firmed it will in­ves­ti­gate the non-dis­clo­sure.

Ver­voort said at ame­dia brief­ing about the li­brary's clo­sure that the seis­mic as­sess­ment on the li­brary had been com­mis­sioned “a few months back”.

Fol­low­ing the Kaik­oura earth­quake on Novem­ber 14, which was felt widely through­out

the re­gion, Hamil­ton News asked if coun­cil had any of its build­ings in­spected by engi­neers for damage.

“All the coun­cil’s fa­cil­i­ties were in­spected on Mon­day morn­ing by the as­set man­agers at each of the fa­cil­i­ties,” Ver­voort said. “There was noth­ing found that would re­quire any of these build­ings to be closed. If there had been any sig­nif­i­cant damage found, we would have closed the build­ing straight away for the safety of staff and the com­mu­nity.”

Coun­cil closed Founders Theatre in March af­ter it was found that the theatre’s fly­ing sys­tem posed a health and safety risk. A sub­se­quent seis­mic test­ing re­port showed the build­ing’s weak­est point rates just 15 per cent to earth­quake spec­i­fi­ca­tion as well.

The fly­ing sys­tem, in­stalled in 1962, holds things like pro­duc­tion lights, drapes, scenery, and stage ef­fects above the stage us­ing ropes, pul­leys and weights. It also holds the fire safety cur­tain.

An in­de­pen­dent health and safety re­port as­sessed there was a likely risk of the fly­ing sys­tem fail­ing at some point in time. It can­not be eas­ily fixed or re­placed with­out re­quir­ing other ma­jor work to the 54-year-old theatre.

At the time, coun­cil CEO Richard Briggs said while the clo­sure was sud­den it was well­known Founders Theatre needed ma­jor work. Work had been done on the fly­ing sys­tem in 2010 and 2014 to ex­tend its life.

Fair­fax re­ported in Fe­bru­ary 2015 that for­mer mayor Julie Har­daker had raised con­cerns with staff that cru­cial main­te­nance was re­quired to en­sure the fa­cil­ity re­mained open.

“We’re here to­day talk­ing about catch up be­cause that’s what this is, catch up,” Har­daker said at the time.

“We’re at the cliff face now and in a cou­ple of years’ time, we are fall­ing over it.”

It had been flagged back in in 2015 that the theatre’s fly tower and stage struc­ture needed ur­gent work to avoid clo­sure.

Har­daker said the fly tower’s lack of at­ten­tion meant the as­set had be­come di­lap­i­dated.

“If they had ac­cu­rate as­set man­age­ment plans since then, I guess we wouldn’t be hav­ing this dis­cus­sion be­cause it would have been dealt with long ago.”

Hamil­ton cen­tral li­brary was closed this week af­ter a de­tailed seis­mic as­sess­ment re­vealed the build­ing is at only 15 per cent of new build stan­dard.

Photo / FILE

Hamil­ton City Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Richard Briggs (left) and gen­eral man­ager com­mu­nity Lance Ver­voort.

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