GUILFORD—Like the simple home improvement project that turns into a gut renovation, the building upgrades to the Guilford Free Library keep expanding.
The initial plans to add attic insulation and repair the library’s floor, at the budgeted cost of $15,000, was approved by Town Meeting earlier this year.
The only bid the Selectboard received for the work, from Mathes Hulme Builders, was for $19,207.
It did not end there.
The Fire Marshal recently visited and told the town it needed to upgrade the library’s exit signs and emergency lighting. That will cost an additional $805.
The current cost of the project: $22,509.12.
Now, more repairs have come to light.
Town Administrator Rebecca Stone announced at the July 27 regular Selectboard meeting library officials may want to replace a basement window. Although the builder said they would cover the cost of the window itself, the town — which owns the building — must pay the labor for the window replacement.
“Now, you talk about setting a precedent. You okayed a contract that was overbid by $4,000,” Selectboard member Richard Clark told his colleagues at the July 22 regular Board meeting. Clark was not present when the Board voted to accept this bid.
He expressed his concern that “the town is dipping into reserves” to fund projects he believes “don’t necessarily need to be done today."
“We can’t go back and change” the vote, Board member Sheila Morse said, but she shared Clark’s concern, noting the project’s newly-found issues will cost almost double the original budgeted amount.
Clark noted the Selectboard decided to appropriate $15,000 for this project, and “now it’s into the 20s and maybe the 30s” by the time the project is complete.
He suggested to his colleagues they allow the needed repairs now, and put off “the extra” until next year when the town can budget for it.
“That building has been there a long time,” Clark said of the circa-1891 library, adding, “you don’t have to fix it all today."
But, the exit signs and emergency lighting are not optional, board member Troy Revis said, because they were ordered by the Fire Marshal.
“If he said it, we have to do it,” Revis said.
Although some members of the Selectboard had previously considered asking the Library Trustees to cover some of the repair costs, the board members changed their minds after conducting some research.
Because the library building is owned by the town, and the town pays its insurance, the town is responsible for maintaining the building.
“The [Library] Trustees can’t be expected to pay for attic insulation,” said Selectboard Chair Anne Rice.