Opening date still uncertain as new library beset with problems

Jan 8, 2020

Water runoff eroding a path. A sign that’s too small. Technical issues with phones. Deer eating the landscaping. A leak in the basement. These are among the issues plaguing the new North Dartmouth Library, which was slated to open last fall.

The $10.5 million project has been underway since December 2018, and was declared “substantially complete” — meaning all major construction was finished — in October 2019.

Since then, the Library Building Committee has been working through a punch list of items to fix and finalize before the building’s grand opening. 

But officials still don’t know when that will be.

Frustrations were on display at the committee’s meeting on January 8, at which committee members, architects, and project managers discussed a variety of items from budget, site drainage, and inspections to toilet flushing and weathering stain for fences.

“I know we, all of us, want to be done,” said Committee Chair Suzanne McDonald emphatically. 

The committee has been renewing a temporary occupancy permit since October 7 in order to set up furniture, computers, phones, and other necessities.

However, they cannot open fully until they are granted a permanent one, which the building inspector must sign off on — but the inspector, in turn, is waiting for a commissioning report, which verifies that all systems are working as required.

“This is not common,” said Mike Delvecchio of project management company P3. “Our systems are working, there’s no dangers to enter the building, everything’s operational. It’s just the commissioning report for some equipment...that’s the only thing holding it up. This is the first I’ve ever, ever, heard of that.”

At the meeting, committee members were careful not to point fingers, focusing instead on each issue in turn.

“I will haunt them to tell them to get it done,” McDonald said more than once.

Among the issues discussed was the need to change the new library’s sign to make it more visible.

“That sign’s been the butt of jokes on social media,” noted McDonald. 

Select Board member David Tatelbaum, who was not attending in any official capacity, agreed. 

“That sign should come down tomorrow,” he said. “It’s a laughing stock.”

But committee members laughed themselves when presented with a quote for a new sign to the tune of $9,295 from project contractor G&R Construction. 

The estimate includes eight hours of field labor to remove the old sign and deliver and install the new one for $1,440.

The committee ultimately decided to seek more bids and to have the current sign removed as soon as possible.

As for the water runoff problem, which has already eroded a “canyon” into the front path in the words of one committee member, the architects promised to speak to engineers about options to prevent further damage.

“This is unfortunate,” said Conrad Ello of Oudens Ello Architecture about the issue. “And I’m disappointed that it’s not working. But we’re here to try to solve it.”

“I feel very proud that we’ve delivered a building with the percentage of design mistakes coming in where they’ve come in, which is exceptionally low, and lower than even what an industry standard would be,” he added.

Tatelbaum made his personal views known as well.

“I’ve been inside, it’s magnificent,” he said of the building. “I love that we did it. I think it’s really important. I supported it from day one.”

But, he noted, the building has a “critical PR problem.” 

“If I’m a resident in town, and I just spent eight million dollars on this building...We owe it to our citizens to let them know what’s going on, when we’re gonna open, what we’re gonna do, and what the solutions are to all these problems,” he said.

This article has been updated to include photos of the building, sign, and path.