Royalton Library, State at Crossroads Over Safety Code as Upgrades Paused

  • 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 Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/27/2018 12:09:06 AM
Modified: 4/27/2018 11:19:15 AM

South Royalton — The Vermont State Fire Marshal’s Office says it has not been cracking down on fire code violations at the Royalton Memorial Library because upcoming renovations are expected to resolve safety issues — renovations that the Royalton Selectboard put on hold earlier this month, citing unexpectedly high construction bids.

Bruce Martin, the state fire marshal’s regional manager in Springfield, Vt., said his office had allowed the library to remain open, but would not do so indefinitely.

“For a small library that has pretty low use and has pretty low risk, we can say, ‘We can give you time,’ but it’s not open-ended,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

All the same, he added in a later email, “We have no intention of seeking closure of the library, or any other enforcement action given the prospect of major improvements to the building. I have communicated this to the Royalton Selectboard.”

Voters approved a $750,000 bond to renovate and upgrade the library in October, and the nonprofit library board also has raised some $460,000 in donations and grants toward the project.

But the Selectboard on April 11 voted to fire the library’s architect and hire another architect, Frank “Jay” Barrett, as an adviser while it decides how to handle construction bids that came in at least $250,000 above the expected cost.

Board members and library trustees hashed out the matter in a tense meeting last week, and agreed to hold a public hearing on Wednesday in the Royalton Academy Building.

Built in the early 1920s, the library is on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the South Royalton Historic District, but has outdated heating systems and code compliance issues. Discussions about renovations have continued for at least 20 years.

Martin said a complaint about fire code and access issues at the library was filed in 2014, when renovations still were under discussion. His office’s report from the time cites numerous compliance challenges, including stair safety, lighting of travel paths, and the maintenance of a secure boiler room.

This March, town officials submitted an application for construction based on the latest renovation plans, and the Fire Marshal’s Office granted the permit on April 7, Martin said — just four days before the Selectboard changed architects and called a “timeout” on the project.

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