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 9, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- Rockingham town counsel Steve Ankuda said renovation work at the Rockingham Free Public Library has stalled after several businesses subcontracted by Baybutt Construction claim they were not paid for the work they've done.

A number of liens have been filed in the Rockingham town land records office by construction tradesmen who refuse to return to the job until they are financially compensated. Baybutt, the general contractor, however, did not take out a performance bond or a payment bond, which act as insurance contracts of sorts. Rockingham/Bellows Falls Municipal Manager Tim Cullenen said he is not sure how this happened but Ankuda is investigating it.

"Somewhere in the wording of the contract, something fell through the cracks," Cullenen said. "(The situation) has reached critical mass."

Ankuda, of Parker & Ankuda PC in Springfield, said he has been told Baybutt thought it had the necessary bonds, but it turns out it did not. He was not sure how everything managed to transpire the way it did.

"That's a question that will have to be answered in the future, as to who is responsible," he said.

Ankuda said having a performance bond 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.

Baybutt is going through some financial woes. According to the Keene, N.H., Sentinel, Baybutt's Keene headquarters at 25 Avon St., as well as another building farther down on Avon Street and the Granite Gorge Ski Area on Route 9 in Roxbury are all scheduled to be part of a foreclosure sale on Friday, Feb. 1. It will be a public auction.

The Sentinel also reported that last week Baybutt President Frederick Baybutt declined an interview but sent an e-mailed response to subcontractors' claims related to the construction of the new Keene Fire Station.

"The project is bonded and we are working with the insurance company ... to make sure everyone will be paid. In the meantime I'm getting financing in ... to right the ship," the Sentinel quoted him as saying.

Baybutt did not return phone calls from the Reformer for comment on Tuesday.

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 said 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.

He said the liens were filed shortly before Christmas but he did not know how many. He described a lien as when a third party (the subcontractors) claims a right to a portion of the funds owed by the first party (the town) to the second party (Baybutt).

Lawrence & Lober Electric was one of the subcontractors on the project and its vice president, Rick Hamm, said the business started to do all the electrical work but has not received a payment in more than three months. He said he believes six or seven liens, amounting to about $450,000 in delinquent payments, have been filed by subcontractors.

Hamm said he has no idea how this whole mess started but said Lawrence & Lober Electric must be paid in full for his workers to return to the project. When told there was no payment bond, he said there was supposed to be one.

Hamm said it is a shame the way everything has happened.

"It's going to be a nice building when it's all said and done -- if it gets done," he said.

Ankuda said the most hopeful result is that Baybutt secures financing for the subcontractors so the work can continue. The worst-case scenario, he said, is that financing is not secured and the project is scaled back significantly. He said the project needs to be completed and that could mean problems for Rockingham if there are cost overruns or if Baybutt cannot perform the task and the town fails to find another general contractor.

Rockingham signed a typical American Institute of Architects contract, which Ankuda said is standard in the industry. He went on to describe how a construction contract works.

He said there is first a bid for projects before the town and the contractors create a schedule of values, which designates the values for the various parts of the job. Ankuda said when contractors want to get paid they submit a request for payment to the architect in charge, who reviews it and either approves or disapproves it. The architect of this project is Eric Palson of SMP Architecture in New Hampshire. All approvals, he said, are then submitted to the town bookkeeper or whoever is in charge of the town's checkbook.

According to the library's website, www.rockinghamlibrary.org, several improvements have been made to the building, including the replacement of the boiler heating system with electrical heat pumps, restoration of the plaster walls and ceilings on the top floor, and the trenching, waterproofing and insulation of the basement.

The website states landscaping, completion of the addition to accommodate new stairs and elevator and the moving of collections out of storage and into place are all planned for the spring.

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