Architect Endorses Library Plan

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/4/2018 11:49:48 PM
Modified: 5/4/2018 11:50:03 PM

Royalton — An architect hired by the Royalton Selectboard to review a library renovation project is recommending that the town move forward with plans previously drafted by another architect and figure out a way to cut costs.

Architect Frank “Jay” Barrett said he recommends that the town pursue the Royalton Memorial Library renovations — which are intended to address access and fire-safety problems — as designed by architect Jay White, who the Selectboard abruptly fired last month.

“It’s a very, very competent design,” Barrett said in a phone interview on Thursday. “The problem is simple: The project is over budget. That’s the issue.”

In addition to addressing the cost overruns, Barrett said the Selectboard and the library’s board of trustees need to rebuild their relationship, which has been fraught since last month.

“If anything is to move forward, the Selectboard and the library trustees have to very quickly build a much ... more inclusive relationship,” said Barrett, who is chairman of the Fairlee Selectboard.

The Royalton Selectboard put the library project on hold after they opened the bids on April 5 and the lowest came in at just over $1 million, which was $250,000 higher than previously anticipated.

At an April 11 special meeting, the Selectboard met in executive session for two hours and then moved to fire White and hire Barrett.

The library’s board of trustees has voiced frustration with that move in several recent meetings, including at a special Selectboard meeting on Wednesday night. More than $460,000 has been raised for the project, which has been in the works for more than two decades.

Voters also approved a $750,000 renovation and upgrade bond on a 374-133 vote at a Special Town Meeting in October.

Cynthia Dalrymple, the president of the library’s board of trustees, could not be reached for comment.

Dan Richardson, the Montpelier-based attorney retained by the library’s board, said he is in the process of reviewing the matter, but said he feels like the next step is for him to talk with the town’s attorney Paul Giuliani, who also is based in Montpelier.

When the costs of the project rose, Richardson said, the “Selectboard reacted as you would expect a selectboard to react.”

He said he hopes those involved can find some “middle ground.”

Selectboard members have said they do not want to spend the entirety of the bond when voters were told that they would only need to use part of it.

Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Sandy Conrad said in an email on Thursday that the next steps will be for the two boards to meet and “come to an agreement as to what the true costs of the project really are.”

After the two boards do that — which she said would be within 30 days — Conrad said she anticipates going back to the voters “for a new bond vote that will cover the entire costs of the renovation.”

For his part, Barrett said he felt both boards share the same goals.

“Everyone in that room wants a decent library for the town of Royalton,” Barrett said of those in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting.

In arriving at his recommendation that the town “stay the course,” Barrett said he rejected the idea of building a new library at two possible sites, the Hope Property, which sits across from the South Royalton School, and a site off Route 14, near the new town office.

It’s “easy to say in the abstract, ‘Let’s just build a new library,’ ” Barrett said. But, then the question is: “What do you do with the old building?”

The library’s current location sits next to the town’s fire station, which Barrett said also likely needs to replaced before long. Should the town opt to build a new fire station next to the new town office, that might free up space for a future library expansion, he said.

The “firehouse is not going to be there forever,” he said. But, he added, “These things take time.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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