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Royalton library, board in negotiation talks



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, February 08, 2019

SOUTH ROYALTON — Members of the Royalton Memorial Library board of trustees and the Royalton Selectboard are negotiating terms of a memorandum of understanding that could clear the way for a long-awaited renovation to the library.

Two library trustees and two Selectboard members met with architect Jay White on Thursday, and the trustees plan to make a final presentation to the Selectboard at its meeting on Tuesday evening.

Voters in October 2017 approved a bond of up to $750,000 for a project to expand the nearly 100-year-old building in South Royalton and bring it into compliance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

Subsequent construction estimates ranged from $1 million to $1.2 million, prompting the Selectboard last year to call for a “timeout” on the project.

New plans that would eliminate expansion of the building’s attic — originally sought by trustees for extra storage space — and avoid the need for a new water line and sprinkler system have scaled the project back enough that it appears satisfactory for both sides, according to Selectboard Chairman Larry Trottier. While voters approved the bond more than a year ago, the Selectboard still must vote on a motion to greenlight it.

“It looks like it’s going to get done,” Trottier said after the meeting on Thursday. “We’re still going to discuss it, but as far as I’m concerned, the price was the major issue. If (the trustees) are ready to go with a price point that fits within budget, then we should be ready to go, too.”

That’s welcome news for board of trustees President Cynthia Dalrymple, who emphasized the importance of breaking ground this spring. She said part of the reason the group received higher-than-anticipated cost estimates stemmed from seeking the bids near the end of the building season.

“We’ve learned that it’s a big problem for small projects in Vermont, where a lot of companies have worker shortages later in the year and don’t want to take on small projects, so they give you a higher (estimate) figure,” Dalrymple said. “It’s essential that we get it going this spring.”

The group has worked with Woodstock-based low bidder Upland Construction, which hopes to build an approximately 1,500-square-foot, two-story expansion with an elevator and a new ground-level entrance for around $600,000, not including nearly $100,000 in contingency funds for unexpected expenditures, according to the trustees. The project also calls for new lighting and heating systems, among other interior improvements.

Both boards have drafted memorandums of understanding, or MOUs, that they hope to finalize by the end of Tuesday’s meeting, with the idea being that the Selectboard would use up to $300,000 from the bond approved by voters and the trustees would cover the rest of the project’s costs with the more than $450,000 raised in private donations and refundable grants, Dalrymple said.

Selectman Timothy Dreisbach last month offered a draft MOU that called for library trustees to reimburse the town, which owns the library building, for all project expenses in excess of $300,000, meaning the nonprofit library board — not taxpayers — ultimately might be responsible for any cost overruns.

Dalrymple said that stemmed from a promise of that nature made to the Selectboard by trustees prior to the 2017 bond vote.

“I’m not surprised (the Selectboard MOU) includes that clause, because that is what we told them,” she said. “The town will need to take out a bridge loan to cover the project’s costs before we get the refundable grants, but that is something they’re accustomed to.”

Chris Noble, a selectman who doubles as liaison for the library trustees, said even if both sides reach an agreement on Tuesday, the Selectboard likely would take around one week to review the final project proposal before it would pursue the bond.

“That motion would likely come in a special meeting, prior to the next scheduled Selectboard meeting (Feb. 26),” Noble said. “All of the difficulties you hear about in bureaucratic processes are usually because of lessons learned along the way, so we have to make sure we execute this carefully.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.