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 January 16, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- Some Rockingham town officials met with the architect overseeing the $2.9 million renovation of the Rockingham Free Public Library on Tuesday to discuss how to move forward with the stalled project.

The town's Selectboard last week started the process of terminating its contract with Baybutt Construction Corporation, the project's general contractor, citing Baybutt's failure to pay sub-contractors and secure a required performance and payment bond as two of the reasons for the contract's termination. All subcontractors hired by Baybutt are refusing to continue their jobs, insisting they have not been paid for the work they have done.

Municipal Manager Tim Cullenen walked through the construction site with Rockingham Finance Director Chip Stearns, town counsel Stephen Ankuda, Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee and Chief Librarian Celina Houlne as well as architect Eric Palson of Sheerr McCrystal Palson Architecture Inc. and another man with the firm.

Cullenen told the Reformer the walk-through of the site was intended to find out how far the project has come, what needs to be done and set short-term and long-term goals. Baybutt has until Thursday to rectify the situation, though it is unlikely to do so. Cullenen said the town has had no reply from the company whatsoever since the Selectboard voted to give MacPhee authority to sign the letter of default on Thursday.


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The Rockingham library trustees met with the Selectboard in executive session before the board's biweekly meeting on Tuesday. Once back in open session, according to Trustee Janice Mitchell-Love, the Selectboard voted to use Engelberth Construction to close in the library's roof and walls and to make the building reasonably weathertight. Selectboard members also voted to give MacPhee the authority to sign any necessary paperwork. Mitchell-Love said this was, however, a preemptive vote, because nothing can be done until Monday if Baybutt does not cure its defaults.

Cullenen told the Reformer the town will likely approach other firms that submitted bids on the project before going elsewhere to find a new general contractor.

He said 40 to 45 percent of the renovation is completed, though most of that is mechanical work. He said the long-term goal is to finish the project (it is still expected to be finished by April) but the short-terms goals include work on the roof, heating system and windows.

Ankuda previously told the Reformer that having a performance bond was a project requirement from the town. Baybutt submitted a statement which said the business 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. Ankuda said he has been told Baybutt thought it had the necessary bonds.

Cullenen said there likely will be an investigation into how this slipped through the cracks and how everything managed to happen the way it did.

"I mean, it looks like they went belly-up on six, seven, eight projects," he said, adding that the issue is not the quality of the work Baybutt completed.

Cullenen also said the town will have to find out which sub-contractors did which jobs and how much they are owed.

Ankuda said Rockingham has already paid Baybutt roughly $900,000 for the percentage of work done on the library and for the performance bond that did not exist. He told the Reformer a general contractor is required to compensate the subcontractors within seven days of being paid. Ankuda said it is all up to Baybutt at this point, adding that the company has a right to attempt to cure any defaults.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.