Rockingham moves to take over library renovation project
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 12,2013
BELLOWS FALLS — Rockingham town officials have moved to take control of the stalled $2.9 million renovation project at the historic Rockingham Free Public Library, by declaring Baybutt Construction Co. in default of its construction contract.
Baybutt has seven days to redeem the default, according to the town’s contract with the Keene, N.H., based construction company, according to Town Attorney Stephen S. Ankuda.
The town cited Baybutt’s failure to pay subcontractors for their work — currently estimated at about $500,000 — and its failure to purchase a payment and performance bond on the project, despite the town’s payment of $21,000 for the bond. Baybutt had been paid for the subcontractors’ work by the town.
According to the town’s letter to Baybutt, company officials signed sworn statements that it had paid the subcontractors, when in reality it had not.
“Such certifications are now found to be untrue,” said the letter signed by Select Board Chairman Tom MacPhee on behalf of the town.
According to the letter, Fred Baybutt, president of Baybutt Construction Co. had told the town Dec. 17 and 18 that the company had arranged interim financing and that closing on the loan had taken place.
“Such financing has not closed,” the letter stated, noting Baybutt supplied the town with evidence that financing had been secured for a closing on an affiliated project, but that closing still had not been completed.
“The town of Rockingham has determined that further delay will prejudice the rights of the town of Rockingham under the contract documents,” the letter concluded.
The library is owned by the town, and the $2.9 million bond was approved by Rockingham voters in May 2011. The library staff and budget are overseen by an elected Board of Trustees.
Voting shortly before 5 p.m., the town immediately faxed notice of the default declaration to Baybutt, and the town’s architects for the project, Sheerr McCrystal Palson Architecture Inc. of New London, N.H.
The architectural firm had been acting as the project manager on behalf of the town, reviewing construction and approving any payment to Baybutt.
Town officials, including MacPhee and Jan Mitchell-Love, chairwoman of the library trustees, said that completing the renovation to the library was a high priority.
After meeting in an emergency private session with Ankuda for about 45 minutes late Thursday afternoon, the Select Board voted unanimously to declare that the Baybutt contract was in default.
What will happen after the seven days remains to be determined, MacPhee said.
“That is a conversation for another day,” he said after the meeting.
Mitchell-Love said the library trustees and staff remained pleased with the work done by Baybutt and the subcontractors to date, and Mitchell-Love said she hoped the “glitch” could be quickly resolved.
Baybutt, a well-respected construction company founded in 1964 that has completed many large-scale construction projects in southern Vermont and western New Hampshire and Massachusetts, has been unavailable for comment since news of its financial problems first surfaced last week.
Baybutt has also been declared in default of a $2.6 million contract with the state of Vermont over the renovation project of the state office in downtown Brattleboro. Problems were also reported to a lesser degree at the virtually completed $8.9 million construction of the new Brattleboro Food Co-op and the Windham Windsor Housing Trust.
In New Hampshire, some subcontractors also haven’t been paid for the completed Keene Central Fire Station. Baybutt was recently kicked off a $5.8 million construction project for the Nantucket Airport.
Mitchell-Love praised the library staff for keeping the library open and its programs in place during the construction project, which began last spring.
And she said that the library building had been secured and was not open to the elements, despite the slowdown in construction work.