Firm hired to inspect Phillipston library’s condition

Phillips Free Public Library in Phillipston

Phillips Free Public Library in Phillipston FILE PHOTO

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 02-14-2024 3:58 PM

PHILLIPSTON – The Selectboard has voted to sign an $8,750 contract with the engineering firm of Tighe & Bond to inspect the Phillips Free Public Library and report on the building’s condition.

Town officials are hoping the Westfield company can provide a more detailed assessment of work that needs to be done at the library, along with a cost estimate. Funds to pay for the contract will come from the town’s building maintenance account.

According to a brief history on the town’s web site, in 1952 the library was moved from Baldwinville Road to the former No. 1 Schoolhouse, which was constructed in 1790. Portions of the building’s main floor are sagging and officials are certain work needs to be done on the foundation.

Back in December, Library Trustee Sylvia Haley received quotes from two local contractors – Art Leray General Contracting of Winchendon and C.M. Contracting of Templeton – who provided estimates of $47,900 and $47,000, respectively, to do work on the foundation.

Selectboard Chair Bernie Malouin and fellow board member Gerhard Fandreyer voted to support Haley’s request to the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) to cover the cost of the higher of the two quotes. At the CPC’s meeting in January, this allocation was approved. Under the guidelines of the Community Preservation Act, this must also be approved by Town Meeting.

In addition, the board instructed Administrative Assistant Melanie Jackson to look into securing the services of a structural engineer to provide a detailed assessment of any additional work that needs to be done, which led to the contract with Tighe & Bond.

Prior to the board’s vote to award the contract at the Feb. 7 meeting, Jackson said, “We’ve got to figure out how to keep that building from becoming dilapidated.”

There was some deliberation among the board members as to exactly what would be done, as according to Library Trustee Karen Perkins, reading from a copy of the proposed contract, “It says ‘visual inspection only of the foundation.’”

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“Basically, all they’re doing is looking at stuff,” said Perkins. “They’re not taking a screwdriver to anything to see if anything is rotted. They’re doing a visual inspection.”

Malouin then asked if the board should hold off on approving the contract until the full Board of Library Trustees could meet to discuss it in detail.

“I’m okay with it, if you guys think this is a reasonable amount for what they’re saying they’ll do,” said Perkins. “Do you think that by doing just a visual inspection of what’s visible in the library they’ll be able to correctly assess what’s going on?”

“I would think so,” Fandreyer responded.

Malouin said he believed Tighe & Bond is better suited to provide an accurate assessment of condition and costs “than someone like a handyman, or even a general contractor. These people are engineers; they’re schooled and trained to do this stuff.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.