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)
Thursday January 24, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- Employees of Engelberth Construction Inc. were on scene working to seal up the Rockingham Free Public Library on Tuesday after the town's $2.9 million contract with another general contractor was officially terminated.

On Thursday, Jan. 10, the Rockingham Selectboard voted to issue a notice of default and terminate its contract with Baybutt Construction Co., one day after the Keene, N.H.-based company lost a contract with the state of Vermont. The board also decided to authorize Chairman Tom MacPhee to sign the letter that was to be faxed to the general contractor that night. Baybutt had been chosen by the library's board of trustees to completely renovate the building.

According to the letter, the Selectboard cited Baybutt's failure to pay subcontractors and secure a required performance and payment bond as two of the reasons for the contract's termination. The project was halted when all subcontractors refused to continue their jobs because, as they said, they had not been paid for the work they did.

The library trustees voted on Tuesday, Jan. 15, to use Engelberth to close in the building's roof and walls and to make sure the structure is reasonably weathertight.

MacPhee on Wednesday told the Reformer that Engelberth will "button the facility up" and do whatever short-term work is necessary. He said some of the sub-contractors are back on the job and the work is estimated to last three to four weeks. The chairman said there is a little relief knowing the situation with Baybutt is finished.

He said Engelberth has not been named the new general contractor, though that is a possibility. An employee of Engelberth did not return a phone call seeking comment.

MacPhee said the architect -- Eric Palson of Sheerr McCrystal Palson Architecture Inc. -- is drafting a letter to be sent to the project's previous bidders to determine if they are interested in the work. He said the letter should be ready by the end of the week.

Selectboard members also say Baybutt, under oath, falsely stated all appropriate amounts were paid to subcontractors that issued certificates for payment.

Stephen Ankuda, legal counsel to the town, said Baybutt had seven days after receiving the letter of default to rectify the situation and get everyone back to work. When this deadline passed, the town was still contractually-obligated to wait another three days before putting Engelberth to work and seeking a new general contractor.

Ankuda said the town has paid Baybutt for the work completed. He said Rockingham signed a typical American Institute of Architects contract, which he said is standard in the industry.

A number of liens totaling about $500,000 have been filed in the Rockingham town land records office by the subcontractors and vendors.

Baybutt did not take out a performance bond or a payment bond, which act as a sort of insurance contract. Ankuda said 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 was told Baybutt thought it had the necessary bonds.

MacPhee said there will be some sort of investigation into how this situation snowballed the way it did.

"There's got to be," he told the Reformer. "We have to know where things fell through."

He said the trustees selected Baybutt as the general contractor and the Selectboard got involved only "once things went south." He said the board intervened because the library is owned by the town.

Rockingham officials say Baybutt got in over its head and has had several contracts terminated.

The state canceled a contract with the company due to problems similar to that in Rockingham. The next was the town of Antrim, N.H., which terminated a contract to build a new police station.

Baybutt has been in business since 1964.

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