Discord Over Royalton Library

  • Royalton Memorial Library Director Marianne Pysarchyk, middle, helps Robert Aitken and his wife Sandy, of South Royalton, Vt. make a printout at the library in South Royalton, Vt., on April 20, 2018. Aitken said he has been coming to the library since he was a boy. He said he was hoping that the renovation project at the library goes forward. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

  • Director Marianne Pysarchyk sorts books for inter library loans on the first floor of the Royalton Memorial Library in South Royalton, Vt., on April 20, 2018. At this time the first floor of the library cannot be used by the public. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Renovations at the Royalton Memorial Library are on hold. The building is not handicapped-accessible. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/20/2018 11:47:45 PM
Modified: 4/20/2018 11:48:00 PM

South Royalton — Selectboard members clashed with Royalton Memorial Library trustees during a tense meeting on Friday morning over the firing of the architect handling renovations to the historic library, but made no immediate decision on the fate of the project.

The Selectboard set a public hearing for May 2 to discuss next steps after construction bids came in at least $250,000 above expectations, leading board members to terminate Jay White, of Montpelier, and pause the project, which has been contemplated for at least 20 years.

Frequent interruptions and testy exchanges characterized Friday’s discussion, where library supporters expressed frustration that the board had moved unilaterally to fire White, as well as concern that a delay or changes in plans could jeopardize donations and grants already in hand.

“Why didn’t you allow us to go to the architect and figure out what we could do (to reduce costs)?” asked Louise Clark, a library trustee.

She added later, “We would have worked with him if we had been given the opportunity, but you went and fired someone we had been working with a long time and had confidence in.”

Finished in 1924, the two-story brick library south of the village green is on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the South Royalton Historic District. But the building also has access problems, fire code issues and outdated plumbing and heating.

Clark and other trustees read aloud the bond article that voters approved, 374-133, in October, and that authorized the borrowing of up to $750,000 for renovations — the anticipated full cost of the project, back then. The trustees said their understanding was that the town legally could borrow and spend the full amount, despite the cost increases.

“I believe that,” Selectboard member Tim Dreisbach said. “My concern as an elected official is to represent the voters.”

Dreisbach drew the library trustees’ attention to a letter they had sent to residents before the vote. The letter said the library already had raised about $460,000, meaning the town likely would have to spend only $290,000.

“That was what was conveyed to the voters when they voted, and there’s where I feel an obligation to those voters who voted based on that information,” Dreisbach said.

“What’s the anxiety on asking the voters again?” Selectboard member Chris Noble asked. “Are we afraid they’ll say no?”

“Time,” multiple people said.

A formal complaint about code problems was filed about the library in 2014, and the State Fire Marshal has been granting waivers to keep the library open since then and approved of the renovation, according to library trustees. But the trustees have said the State Fire Marshal recently indicated that another waiver might not be granted. The officials in the State Fire Marshal’s Office who handled the waivers were not available for comment Friday.

Frank “Jay” Barrett Jr., an architect hired by the Selectboard to advise on the project, said timing was a relevant concern.

“But on the other hand,” he said, “keep in mind that this is not the first project to experience some difficulties in getting launched.”

Barrett said that Upland Construction, whose $1 million bid was the lowest of four firms, is a “reputable, honorable contractor” whom the town can engage in its efforts to get a handle on cost.

“I don’t think you’re throwing everything out the window” by waiting, Barrett said.

But the bids opened earlier this month also did not include the cost of installing a sprinkler system, which became part of the project. The library also may have to pay for a new water line to serve the system.

Despite the shock to some residents from the project delay, Selectboard members said they supported the library renovations and hoped to find common ground.

“We’re all in favor of the library,” Selectboard Chairman Larry Trottier said. “It’s just that we’re responsible for the taxes that townspeople pay.”

The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 2 in the Royalton Academy Building.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.




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