• Financial problems mount for Rockingham library contractor
    By
     | January 09,2013
     
    Susan Smallheer / Staff Photo

    While the Rockingham Free Public Library remains open, work on the $2.9 million renovation project has nearly stopped due to the financial problems of the contractor.

    BELLOWS FALLS — Construction has all but stopped at the Rockingham Free Public Library’s $2.9 million renovation, as the general contractor, Baybutt Construction Co. of Keene, N.H., has failed to pay subcontractors on the job.

    More than half a dozen contractors have filed contractors’ liens against either Baybutt or the town of Rockingham for a total of $466,347, according to liens on file Tuesday at the Rockingham town clerk’s office.

    The biggest lien, $156,220, was filed Monday by Lawrence & Lober, a local electrical contractor, with the next biggest, $93,799 from Green Mountain Electric Supply. Other liens include Granite City Electric Supply, $35,799; Hodgkins and Sons Inc., $19,217; NES Rentals, $3,604; Joel Letourneau Drywall, $55,000, R&R Window Contractors, $65,000; and Hampshire Fire Protection, $37,700.

    Town Manager Timothy Cullenen said the town was trying to work with Baybutt to resolve the issue and get subcontractors paid, and have work resume on the top-to-bottom renovation of the historic library. Voters approved a bond issue for the renovations in May 2011.

    Stephen Ankuda, the town attorney, said Rockingham had been told by Baybutt that it had lined up financing, but he said the loan hadn’t closed yet.

    Ankuda said many of the contractors who hadn’t been paid were local companies, adding to the sting.

    Jan Mitchell-Love, chairwoman of the Rockingham Free Public Library’s board of trustees, said her board had selected Baybutt from about six serious bids on the project because of its work restoring the Bellows Falls Opera House and the fact that its project manager “lived around the corner.”

    She said the board in researching Baybutt could find nothing negative about the company.

    Mitchell-Love, who said one or two Baybutt workers were on the job Monday and again Tuesday, said the library board was extremely pleased with the work Baybutt had done.

    “But not paying the subcontractors? That is a huge glitch,” said Mitchell-Love, who said the town had hired two architects from SMP Architects of Concord, N.H., to be the town’s project manager on the renovation project. The library is owned by the town but managed by an elected board of trustees.

    Construction started in April on the project, which is expected to be completed in July 2013, Mitchell-Love said.

    Ankuda said that the town has had a good experience working with Baybutt in recent years, since it was the company that completed the $3.7 million renovation of the Rockingham Town Hall, including the renovation of the Opera House. That work was done from 2004 to 2006.

    Ankuda said that Baybutt was violating terms of its contract with the town by not paying the contractors, since they are supposed to be paid with seven days of submitting their bills.

    He said the town had paid Baybutt for the work, but that the subcontractors had not been paid since November.

    Both Ankuda and Cullenen estimated that the $2.9 million project was about 40 percent done.

    Ankuda said the town had a standard American Institute of Architects contract in place, and that the town’s architect had to sign off that the work has been done before the town would pay Baybutt.

    Ankuda and Mitchell-Love said there was no complaint about the quality of the work Baybutt had done.

    The library has remained open during construction and during the snafu. A librarian on duty Tuesday afternoon referred all questions to town officials.

    The library, which is located on Westminster Street, is half surrounded by a chain link fence, and a small excavator sits on the library lawn, surrounded by undisturbed snow. A couple of large blue tarps hung off the side of the library, unsecured, exposing a corner of the library roof to the elements.

    The Keene Sentinel reported Tuesday that Baybutt has run into problems with several construction projects in the Keene region, including the city’s new fire station. The newspaper said that the Granite Gorge Ski Area, owned by Baybutt, had been foreclosed on as well as its corporate offices in Keene. Both properties are scheduled for auction.

    The newspaper also reported that Baybutt is being sued by a Walpole, N.H., company for $203,000, of which $181,000 was for work it had done for Baybutt renovating the Vermont State Office Building in Brattleboro. Efforts to reach someone at the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services were unsuccessful Tuesday.

    Efforts to reach Baybutt were also unsuccessful Tuesday, as the company’s telephone line appeared to be not working.

    Ankuda said that Baybutt had run into similar problems on the island of Nantucket and had been “kicked off” a major $4.5 million construction job at the island’s airport. He said the town had the right to bring in a new general contractor if Baybutt didn’t meet the conditions of the contract.

    susan.smallheer@rutlandherald.com

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