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Westwood studying failed ceiling at library

Wooden slats on the ceiling at the new Westwood library fell and are being removed.

Bill Greene/Globe Staff/File 2013

Wooden slats on the ceiling at the new Westwood library fell and are being removed.

At least 80 percent of the ceiling at Westwood’s new 32,000-square-foot library has been removed as officials seek to learn why the wooden slats began to fall to the floor in January.

Library officials reopened the High Street building this week after extended closures over the last two months, and after tradesmen were called in to remove the ceiling by hand. The nearly $14 million building had already suffered significant delays before its July opening.

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Members of the library’s Board of Trustees said in a news release Monday that a team of investigators and specialists have been gathered by the town’s Permanent Building Committee to determine liability and research what kind of new ceiling should be installed.

“This will require a careful examination of alternatives, costs, and public safety,’’ trustees said in a public apology for the inconvenience. “However, since the project cost was well within the budget, the town is able to cover the cost until that determination can be made.”

Information on how much it would cost to take down and put up a new ceiling wasn’t immediately available. However, ceiling work in the original construction plan was budgeted at about $400,000, officials said.

Officials at TLT Construction Corp. in Wakefield, the general contractor for the $13.9 million project, could not be reached for comment; their voicemail boxes were full.

According to published reports, several other projects handled by the contractor elsewhere had also experienced delays. Sutton selectmen removed TLT from a high school building project in October, according to the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, after months of missed deadlines and shoddy workmanship.

Norfolk County Agricultural High School in Walpole and the Wachusett Regional School District in Holden also terminated contracts with TLT because of delays and other construction problems, a story in the Worcester Telegram said.

In Westwood, Town Administrator Mike Jaillet and library trustees said the exact cause of the ceiling failure is being investigated but does not appear to be related to cold winter temperatures. There are no leaks in the building and the roof is secure, they said.

The recent closings have been very difficult not only for library director Tom Viti and his staff, but also for everyone who is proud of the new facility, Jaillet said.

“But first and foremost is the safety of the community,’’ he said. “And this unfortunate situation has to be corrected.”

If the library has to close again, hours will be extended at the Islington branch to compensate, Viti said.

Reach Michele Morgan Bolton at michelebolton@live.com.
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