Clients are cutting ties to Baybutt Construction Corp., the Keene, N.H.-based general contractor that has been doing business in New England since 1964. Most of the contracts are small but the apparent failure of Baybutt may signal another, more perilous year for recession-weakened construction companies, say people familiar with contracting and Baybutt's troubles.
Commissioners of the Nantucket Memorial Airport in Massachusetts voted to terminate Baybutt Dec. 11 from a $4.5-million contract to build a new general aviation building. The commissioners are working with Merchants Bonding Co., Baybutt's surety for the project, says Janine Torres, the commission's office manager.
Vermont officials gave Baybutt seven days notice and then last week declared the contractor in default on its contract to renovate the state state office building in Brattleboro. Baybutt won the $2.6-million contract in May, 2012.
Bob Rea, director of facilities operations for the state of Vermont, eastern region, says that his agency is working with Merchants Bonding and hopes to complete the work on time by mid-April in order to return the employees now working in leased space to the renovated structure. The work is 40% to 50% complete, he says.
Rea speculates that the recession had caused Baybutt to take on too many projects at slim margins, leaving the company vulnerable. "Apparently, they were having problems on other projects, too," he says. "It's really unfortunate."
Local newspapers and television stations in New England have been carrying stories with complaints by Baybutt's unpaid subcontractors and vendors. Baybutt is reportedly putting real estate up for sale Feb. 1.
One of the company's owners did not return a call for comment.
Baybutt's website is full of tributes to the contractor from past clients. It also contains photos of projects from which they have already been terminated.
In a statement, Des Moines-based Merchants Bonding says it is working with Baybutt and its clients, including "investigating claims of subcontractors, suppliers, and, where appropriate, arranging for completion of the bonded projects."
"These strenuous economic times," the statement adds, "highlight the importance of surety bonds and their reliability as an instrument in minimizing risk in construction."