According to Town Manager Rick Bates, Rockport-based Phi Builders will not submit a bid on the construction of a new Rockport Public Library on Limerock Street. An employee or employees of the company were chosen by the Rockport Select Board to serve as the Owner's Representative on the project last week.

A press release sent from the Rockport Town Office on July 26 cites a possible conflict of interest as the reason for Phi opting out of the bid process. While serving as Owner's Representative, Phi will be working with architect Stephen Smith and engineer Will Gartley to create a cost estimate for the project, which is expected to go before voters in November.

"After further consideration, it became clear that if Phi were to be the Owner’s Representative for the project, the potential existed to create an unfair advantage during the bidding process following a November vote approving the bond. Neither the town nor Phi wanted that perception. Instead, both parties agreed that Phi will not bid on the project as they had originally intended and will act only as the Owner’s Representative for the project in assisting the town," reads a portion of the release.

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.

"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."

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 $76.50 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.

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.

The plan for the new library 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.