The trustees caused an uproar last month when they fired Houlné, and her attorney, Richard Bowen, has suggested the library trustees may be scapegoating her for the fiasco with Baybutt Construction Corp. Baybutt had been hired as the general contractor of library's $2.9 million renovation project but had its contract terminated by the Rockingham Selectboard in January. Trouble arose when sub-contractors hired by Baybutt refused to show up at the site and continue their jobs, insisting that Baybutt had not yet paid them for work already done. It turned out Baybutt was in deep financial trouble and did not take out a performance bond, which acts as an insurance contract of sorts, resulting in it not being able to pay its bills.
Owner Frederick Baybutt filed for personal bankruptcy in February. The situation delayed the library's projected reopening, which was originally scheduled for the end of the spring, by several months.
Engelberth Construction Inc. was hired to finish the renovation and Municipal Manager Willis "Chip" Stearns II has told the Reformer he thinks the building now "looks gorgeous."
The trustees voted 5-3 on Wednesday, Sept. 18, to terminate Houlné, outraging members of the public who believe there was an ulterior motive for the action, which Trustee Chairwoman Janice Mitchell-Love denies. Mitchell-Love, Vice Chairwoman Deborah Wright and members Hope Brissette, Paige Pietrzak and Laura Senes voted in favor of the motion while Carolyn Frisa, Ray Massucco and Pat Fowler voted against it. Trustee David Buckley was unable to attend that meeting and Elayne Clift, a staunch critic of the trustees' recent rulings, joined the board shortly thereafter.
Houlné's was entitled to a public hearing, which was stretched over the course of the two previous Thursdays. The trustees are scheduled to hold a deliberative session in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre today at 5 p.m. to consider voting to rehire the director.
The library has been operating out of a former Merchants Bank location at 41 The Square since its board of trustees voted controversially in May to close the building at 65 Westminster St. so renovations could be completed. According to librarian Samantha Maskell, most services will be cut off from Wednesday, Oct. 23, to Thursday, Oct. 31, so the main facility can be reopened to the public on Nov. 1.
The library will not charge late fees for items returned during the transition and throughout November. Library materials can be left in the drop box located in front of the building next to the sidewalk. Despite the closure, the screening of the documentary film "Bully" and ensuing discussion is still scheduled for the third floor at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24.
The library is seeking volunteers to assist with the move. Anyone interesting in helping is asked to contact the library 802-463-4270 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.