Assessment of Phillips Free Public Library does not address “problematic” addition

Phillips Free Public Library in Phillipston. Town officials hope to restore the level of the floor in the 232-year-old structure.

Phillips Free Public Library in Phillipston. Town officials hope to restore the level of the floor in the 232-year-old structure. FILE PHOTO BY GREG VINE


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 05-16-2024 4:14 PM

PHILLIPSTON – A structural assessment of the Phillips Free Public Library shows that $263,000 worth of repairs is needed for the building, but it appears the full extent of the work is not yet known.

At a meeting of the Selectboard Wednesday evening, copies of the assessment done by Tighe & Bond were handed out. The board soon learned, however, that a section of the library had not been included, due to a lack of access. The library is still in use.

Sylvia Haley and Karen Perkins, members of the Library Board of Trustees, informed the board that representatives of Tighe & Bond were unable to look beneath the floor of the section of the building which has been deemed most problematic. That section, measuring about 6 by 24 feet, appears to have been added to the building at some point over the years. The floor in that area has developed an obvious slope and a door frame is significantly out of line.

Selectboard member Gerhard Fandreyer, an electrician, said he had cut a square hole in the floor a few years ago for another matter and found there isn’t enough room for anyone to crawl around and inspect the structure from beneath. He also pointed out access can’t be made from the adjacent main building because “there’s a solid wall all the way around” the foundation of the addition.

“This is the problem area at the north part of the library. We’re worried about the foundation at the north part of the building, and I don’t know why you didn’t say that area was inaccessible,” Perkins said. “I didn’t even realize that was a six-foot extension on that part of the building. If we’re going to pay $9,000 to have an engineering company come in, we should get them access so they can look at it instead of having to call them back to look at it.”

“We thought that they could tell us what was wrong with that area, and thought that they had access to it,” Haley added.

Public Works Director Rick Tenney said that the library’s outer foundation had been “piecemealed in” and was made of fieldstone. He believed that the back corner of the library, which is sagging, could be shored up so someone could then get access.

“I think what you’re dealing with is you have a foundation in that library that is old-school granite foundation block on the top, and when you get below ground level it’s fieldstone. But the addition (foundation), I think you’re going to find, is all stacked fieldstone,” Tenney said, adding that one end of the addition may have dropped because the fieldstone foundation is collapsing.

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At the suggestion of Selectboard Chair Bernie Malouin, Fandreyer and Tenney agreed to schedule a time when the two of them could remove a small section of the fieldstone foundation beneath the addition and undertake a cursory examination of its condition. Once the opening has been made, Tighe & Bond will be called back in hopes the engineers can do a more detailed assessment.

Once the assessment has been completed, trustees and other town officials can decide how best to proceed with repairs to that section of the library. Voters at the recent Town Meeting approved the use of nearly $48,000 from the town’s Community Preservation Act account to pay for the repairs to the addition. The final statement from the engineers, however, will determine whether that amount will be enough for this specific work, which was not included in Tighe & Bond’s $263,000 estimate.

Greg Vine can be reached at