Construction crews passed a major milestone Wednesday in their effort to complete the downtown River Center Branch library. Workers lowered four giant hydraulic jacks that had propped up a cantilevered section of the $19 million building.

The development marks a major sign of progress in the effort to open the facility, which the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system had hoped to complete last fall.

“This is a nice step forward in the remediation work,” Library Director Spencer Watts said Wednesday. “We’re very pleased we’ve reached the point they can be removed, and the work proceed forward as planned.”

Bubba Cashio, the city-parish’s director of buildings and grounds, said it’ll probably be a “few weeks” before the jacks are completely removed from the site. That won’t happen until the final bracing, survey calculations and inspections are complete, he said.

"This is just the natural progression of the construction up to this point," said Cashio.

The four jacks have been holding the cantilevered section — the feature hanging over the sidewalk on the north side of the building — since support beams failed in April 2018 due to a possible design flaw. The trouble raised concerns that part of the building might collapse.

Construction resumed last month, thanks to $2.7 million from the city-parish's Library Board of Control. Construction crews first used the jacks to lift the cantilever in quarter-inch increments back to its original height before the beams failed, and after they were confident the building was secure again, they lowered the jacks Wednesday.

As crews continue to work on completing by the building by this fall, the city-parish is currently locked in a legal battle with the project's architects and engineers over what went wrong and who should pay to rehabilitate the building.

The city-parish is hoping to recoup all the excess taxpayer money it has had to pump into the more than $19 million project. But for now, Watts said, “we’re looking forward to continued progress being made.”

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