Library project hits snag



TREMONT — The Bass Harbor Memorial Library has terminated its contract with New Yankee Builders for the expansion and renovation project and will be looking for a new contractor to finish the job.

The library’s Board of Trustees is leading the project, but because the library is a town-owned property, selectmen are required to approve all expenditures, as well as contracts and amendments to them.

After meeting in executive session on Nov. 12, selectmen unanimously voted to hand the project over to former Clerk of the Works Mel Atherton to winterize the building and put together a list of remaining specifications in order to put the project back out to bid.

“His focus for the next several weeks is to get the building closed up and ready for winter,” library trustee Pete Madeira told the Islander. “The next step is to find a contractor to finish the job.”

In September, library trustee Mike Hays requested an amendment to the contract with New Yankee Builders for a new completion date of March 2020 from the original date of Nov. 18, 2019.

With that extension came a steeper penalty if the project was not completed on time. For every day the project was not complete after the new deadline, New Yankee Builders, owned by Damon Lear, would have been penalized $250 per day.

“We developed a new schedule with him that would allow us to complete the work,” said Hays, adding that some of the new deadlines were missed. “We just became concerned. It’s a pretty involved project.”

At that same meeting in September, Hays also asked for an increase in pay for Atherton, saying he had spent more time at the site than was in his contract.

Subcontractors have continued to work at the site.

Town Manager Chris Saunders estimates the project is more than halfway done and about $200,000 has been paid to New Yankee Builders. Selectmen approved an amended amount of $326,000 for the project.

In a capital campaign, library trustees raised $470,000 to be used for the renovation and a 770-square-foot expansion, as well as furniture and equipment.

It was a four-step process at the Nov. 12 Board of Selectmen meeting to put Atherton in charge. All four motions were unanimously passed by the board.

First, selectmen moved to terminate the contract with New Yankee Builders due to nonperformance of contractual requirements. Second, selectmen moved to terminate Atherton’s position as clerk of the works due to a change in general contractor. Third, selectmen moved to authorize Saunders to inform Atherton, via letter, of his contract being terminated due to a change in contractor.

Finally, selectmen moved to waive the purchasing policy due to emergency circumstances, including winter weather. They authorized Saunders to sign a proposal with IWA, a company owned by Atherton, to get the building weather tight for the winter.

It is not clear yet whether Atherton will continue as clerk of the works once a new contractor is found.

“My goal would be to keep him as clerk of the works,” said Hays. “He has done a wonderful job.”

Once a new request for proposals is drawn up for the remaining interior work, it could take up to two months to sign with a new contractor.

“It’s safe to say that March 2020 deadline is no longer applicable,” said Saunders in a conversation with the Islander. “I really do believe we have a multi-factorial causal chain happening here.”

Hays is confident the building expansion and renovation could be completed by next summer and says the change is an unfortunate one.

“It’s a shame that it worked out this way,” he said about terminating the contract with Lear. “It was a mutual decision. It wasn’t something forced on him.”

In the meantime, the Bass Harbor Memorial Library continues to operate out of the building at 737 Tremont Road, known to some as Pacific Hall.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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