The Rockport Select Board has approved Rockport-based Phi Builders & Architects to serve as Owner's Representative for the proposed Rockport Public Library which will be built at 1 Limerock St.

Phi was one of four candidates for the position and will work with the project's architect, Steve Smith, and engineer Will Gartley, to provide an estimate for the construction of the building, before it is put out to bid. The other candidates considered by the library's design team were Tom Albertson, Mary Beth Vankeuren and Joe Richardi.

The agreement with Phi would terminate at the point that the project goes out for bid. Town Manager Rick Bates said that the position would pay $75.50 per hour, for 10 hours a week, and would last approximately 10 weeks. Chairman Doug Cole said that there may be two individuals from Phi serving as Owner's Rep., one of whom would be Will Powers.

The approval of Phi took place during the July 23 Select Board meeting. Because only three of the five Selectmen were present (Cole, Mark Kelley and Jeff Hamilton) a unanimous vote was required to make the decision. Before a motion was passed, Hamilton and Kelley expressed concern that Phi would have an unfair advantage over other construction candidates when the project went to bid — having been present at all design meetings.

Kelley and Hamilton suggested that the motion to elect Phi be amended to include the provision that all public meetings which the design team and Phi attend be advertised publicly, so that other interested parties could be present.

"If Phi Builders is also going to be considered as the actual builder of the library, we need to make sure that there is no unfair or undue advantage to that organization that would provide them with an advantage over anyone else bidding for that project," said Hamilton.

"I do know that two other builders, Bruce Laukka and Dave Nazaroff, have been working with Steve [Smith] to come up with estimates for us ahead of time, so they're certainly going to be privy to that, said Cole. "But you're absolutely right, there could be someone out there who wants to bid and they haven't been able to look at this information."

"We need to make sure going forward there is no unfair advantage to the bidding process," said Hamilton, and the amended motion to select Phi was voted on unanimously, including the language that the town would "publicly advertise any related meetings including design team meetings such that others have the opportunity to attend."

A group of volunteers has recently formed the Rockport Library Foundation to help raise the $2 million in private donations necessary to proceed with construction of the new building. The estimated cost of the building is $3.5 million: the remaining $1.5 million will appear as a bond question to voters at the November polls.

Smith was hired to redesign the structure proposed for 1 Limerock St., with a different facade on a smaller scale from the $4 million, 9,500 square-foot design proposed by Reed & Co. Architects in 2016. The most recent renderings by Smith call for a 7,000-7,500 square-foot space.

The plan includes a redesigned intersection of Russell, Union and Limerock streets — a redesign would remove the existing island that lies in the middle, where the three roads merge. A number of new parking spaces would also be added to Limerock Street opposite the building where Memorial Park is.