The Rockingham Free Public Library in Bellows Falls. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
The Rockingham Free Public Library in Bellows Falls. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Wednesday February 6, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- The Rockingham Selectboard voted Tuesday to approve four change orders of a contract with the construction company tasked with "buttoning up" the Rockingham Free Public Library and opted to authorize the architecture firm overseeing the renovation project to continue through February.

The votes were taken after the members came out of executive session in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre.

Municipal Manager Tim Cullenen described a change order as an amendment to an original contract, in this case with Colchester-based Engelberth Construction Co. He said the change orders will become public record once they are executed, which he believes will be done by the end of the week.

The Selectboard also decided the project's architect -- Eric Palson of Sheerr McCrystal Palson (SMP) Architecture Inc. in Concord, N.H. -- will be employed to evaluate the project at a cost not to exceed $11,550.

Selectboard member Stefan Golec made the motion, which passed 3-1. Josh Hearne voted against the measure and Matthew Trieber, who is also the district's representative to Montpelier, was not present.

"I have concerns over who is ultimately responsible for not making sure the performance bond was in place," Hearne told the Reformer after the meeting adjourned. He said SMP is "overseeing the project so my understanding is they would be the ones, at this point, that would be responsible for that."

The project at the library was halted for a while when sub-contractors, or subs, and vendors refused to continue their jobs, insisting they had not been paid by general contractor Baybutt Construction Co. for the work they had done. Baybutt's contract was eventually terminated for failure to pay the subs.

Some subs have decided to file lawsuits against Rockingham for failing to make sure Baybutt had a performance bond and payment bond, which act as insurance contracts of sorts. Baybutt and the architect are also targets of the potential lawsuits and there also are several liens filed in the town land records office against the amount of money owed to Baybutt from the town.

As a result of the fiasco, the Rockingham Selectboard terminated its $2.9 million contract with Baybutt. However, town counsel Stephen Ankuda said Rockingham has paid Baybutt roughly $900,000 for the percentage of work done on the library and for the performance bond that did not exist. He said the town's contract was with Baybutt and the town is not responsible for the corporation's failure to pay the subs. Ankuda said a general contractor is required to compensate the subcontractors within seven days of being paid.

The town had been told Baybutt -- a Keene, N.H.-based company -- had all the necessary bonds, which was a project requirement from the town. Baybutt submitted a statement, which said the company was entitled to be paid for percentages of the project completed and that it had a $21,000 performance bond, which it actually did not. Cullenen said he is not sure how this happened but Ankuda is investigating it.

Hearne said he did not seeing the point in authorizing the architecture firm to evaluate the project and its progress without determining it is not at all liable for the issues that have transpired with Baybutt.

"If we have a bunch of contractors that are out there, holding on and waiting for money that they may or may not see from Baybutt, I feel if they're [SMP] the ones responsible, we shouldn't be rewarding them," he said.

The library's board of trustees voted on Tuesday, Jan. 15, to have Engelberth Construction Inc. close in the building's roof and walls and to make sure the structure is reasonably weathertight. As a result, some of the subs returned to the job.

Cullenen said no one within the municipal government has heard from Baybutt since the Rockingham Selectboard sent the company a letter of default and gave it seven days to rectify the situation and get all the subs back to work.

Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee previously told the Reformer Engelberth has not been named the new general contractor, though that is a possibility. Cullenen said a letter has been sent to the project's four previous bidders to determine if they are interested in the job.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.