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)
Saturday April 6, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- An architect involved in the Rockingham Free Public Library renovation has been authorized to draft designs consistent with the project's new scope of work, and the construction firm tasked with making the building weathertight will review those plans to calculate a cost and devise a schedule.

The Rockingham Selectboard voted Friday morning to authorize Jason Lacombe of Sheerr McCrystal Palson Architecture to redesign the project based on reductions in scope agreed upon at a special meeting in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre. Engelberth Construction Inc. will then review the designs.

Baybutt Construction Corp., a Keene, N.H-based company, had been hired as the general contractor for the $2.9 million renovation. But the project hit a snag months ago, when subcontractors refused to continue their jobs and insisted Baybutt had not paid them for the work already done. Rockingham town officials terminated a contract with Baybutt when the corporation's financial woes came to light.

Baybutt Construction did not take out a performance or a payment bond, which acts as an insurance contract of sorts and was a project requirement from the town. The company's owner, Frederick L. Baybutt, declared personal bankruptcy in February.

Engelberth was selected by the library trustees on Tuesday, Jan. 15, to "button up" the building by closing in its roofs and walls and making it "reasonably weathertight."

The library is open during construction.

The scope of the project needs to be scaled back, as Rockingham has come to an agreement to pay subcontractors, or subs, a portion of what they are owed and get them back to work. Following Friday's special meeting, Rockingham Finance Director Chip Stearns said the reduction in scope on the project could save as much as $321,610.

Rockingham's town attorney Stephen Ankuda was in charge of drafting the document and told the Reformer most of the forms are ready for signature. The format has been agreed upon by the majority of subs.

Scaling back the renovation project was a big step, Ankuda said, because the agreement with the subs entails the companies being paid as long as they agree to come back to the project and work in accordance with its new scope.

Lacombe explained to Friday's audience -- which was made up mostly of the library's board of trustees -- several features will be "deleted" from the original design. He said the building will not include bronze stair nosings, rubber flooring on the main staircase, finishing on the maple wood flooring, ceramic tiles in the bathrooms or wiring for any future solar system, among other aspects initially planned for the library.

Lacombe told the Reformer after the meeting the library will also go without the architectural millwork intended for it.

"In the original lobby ... when you came in there were these large, decorative columns that were original to the building. In 1965, when they did the addition, they tore all that out, they tore out the fireplaces," he said. "So what we were doing is we were going back in and putting replicas of the historic elements back in place."

Stearns said omitting the architectural millwork package will save $122,000.

Lacombe explained during the meeting that the children's area of the library will be finished and complete with toilets. He said some doors may be missing but there will be an access ramp and a space for library staff in the basement. The architect said the building will be without a staff bathroom and an office for the library director.

He also advised that the new designs omit the planned woodstone doors and the Friends of the Library raise funds separately if they have their hearts set them. All the materials for the doors has already been purchased.

When some of the library trustees started advocating for the doors at Friday's meeting, Municipal Manager suggested that the town save every dollar possible and ask the Friends to raise the money for the special doors.

The library will likely have to be closed for a month or so while the work is completed and one of the trustees advised that July would be the worst month to do that due to all the children's programs.

Ankuda said he is optimistic that the work will begin soon.

Friday's meeting started at 9:30 a.m. and adjourned around 10:50.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.