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The ceiling of the Dome Room at the Lenox Library is in need of repair. The project at the 205-year-old building could cost close to $1 million.

LENOX — The town’s Permanent Buildings Committee has tapped Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson Architecture and Preservation of Albany, N.Y., to design a major renovation and restoration project at the town-owned library.

Lacey Thaler, as it’s known, was among four well-qualified architectural and design applicants seeking to win approval for the rehabilitation of the 205-year-old building’s Dome Room ceiling, which needs to be shored up.

The project could cost close to $1 million, with anticipated support of $100,000 from the Community Preservation Act, a potential $250,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Facilities Fund, as well as additional, unspecified amounts to be raised by the private Lenox Library Association, the town’s general fund and capital project low-interest bond financing.

“These are the kind of projects that we really love,” said Mark Thaler, of Nassau, N.Y., a preservation architect for 30 years and the partner in charge. “This structural stabilization is a very good fit.”

Thaler, noting that he had worked on the Clock Tower Business Center project in Pittsfield many years ago, pointed out that much of the structural design work would be handled by longtime collaborator Silman Engineering of New York City and Boston, represented at the March 4 committee meeting by structural engineer Michael Auren.

“There’s a lot of stuff that’s hidden and a lot of stuff above the ceiling,” Auren said about the Dome Room ceiling renovation.

“We partners are elbow-deep, not just hands-on,” project manager Stephen Reilly pointed out. “This kind of project is near and dear to my heart. We’ve had a lot of projects with challenging ceiling structures.”

Reilly recalled working on a ceiling stabilization at The Mount, the mansion in Lenox built in 1902 for author Edith Wharton.

“These projects rely on a really strong understanding of the existing conditions,” Reilly emphasized. “It’s very important to take a methodical approach to documenting as much as possible to get a sense of the severity and extent of the problems.”

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Mark Thaler, a preservation architect for 30 years, has reported that his inspection of the Lenox Library’s Dome Room ceiling revealed a great deal of cracking, among other structural issues. He cited added pressure on the ceiling caused by moisture buildup in cellulose insulation.

Thaler reported that his inspection of the library’s Dome Room ceiling revealed a great deal of cracking, among other structural issues. He cited added pressure on the ceiling caused by moisture buildup in cellulose insulation.

The main issue is to pinpoint the causes of “deformation” in the ceiling and the roof, he added.

“There’s clearly distress and movement and issues with the historic wood in the roof and the ceiling,” Auren explained, so, a more comprehensive analysis is required, including a timeline to identify priorities that are immediate, six months or a year ahead.

Various solutions need study, Thaler suggested, such as “conserving everything in place and working within the confines of the attic.” Evaluation of why cracks have developed in the ceiling will lead to consideration of differently priced options, he added.

“It might be that the ceiling comes down and then gets re-created,” Thaler told the committee members, referring to a potential choice between restoration and re-creation. That would require detailed analysis for the committee and the state historical commission, leading to cost projections so that “all the cards are on the table.”

Conserving the ceiling in place, instead of re-creating it, could be $200,000 more expensive, he suggested.

“The solutions we come up with have to be thought about not only in immediate costs, but also how they’re going to affect you long term to make sure they’re wise decisions for you,” Thaler told the committee.

“”It’s a tough spot to work up there if there are major comprehensive changes that have to happen in the attic structurally,” Reilly cautioned. “If we have to open up things in the ceiling or from the roof deck down in order to stabilize what’s going on inside, that’s another daunting prospect.”

As he put it, “with this building, we have to think carefully about those possibilities and weigh that against the value and the preservation and conservation of the ceiling and what we could do strategically to get through the ceiling to do the things that need to be done structurally above. ... It’s best to reserve judgment until we have a chance to crawl around in there and get good and dirty.”

“We are very much trying to get everyone on board, and we’re as transparent as possible,” Thaler said. Once specifications for the project can be presented for approval by the town and the state, “we can tailor the specifications accordingly, and you guys can get the best bang for the buck.”

Thaler stressed the need for a public “communications strategy” tailored to the needs of the community as outlined by the town’s leaders.

Reilly called the library “a spectacular building, and we would jump at the chance to have the opportunity.”

“That was a difficult process,” committee Chairman Edward Lane said after the members voted to select the finalists among four applicants. “But, we got through it; we had four good firms, four good presentations, and we learned a lot. We did our job.”

The next step involves a contract negotiation between Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen and the leaders of Lacey Thaler.

Ketchen told the committee that “there’s no question this project is going to need an authorization for financing” from annual town meeting voters May 6.

“There’s still an uncertainty on the complete price tag. … In our lifetime, it will not be less expensive to borrow money than it is now,” he said. “Borrowing is the thing I like to do the least, except when it makes perfect sense. Where the market is right now, it makes perfect sense.”

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter@ BE_cfanto or at

413-637-2551.