As Edgartown prepares to open bids next week for the construction of a new $11 million library, the design rights to the proposed building have been called into question.
Timothy Culbert, an architect and founding partner of Imrey Culbert LP, wrote in a letter to town officials that he did not transfer rights for the library design, a step he claims was required for the town to use the design. He said Imrey Culbert was originally retained for design services for the library.
“Not of your doing or knowledge quite possibly, the board of appeals, the board of trustees of the library and its members, the library project manager, the town of Edgartown and selectmen, the Edgartown building and zoning inspector, are irresponsibly pursuing a project for which — much to my regret to inform you in this way, at this stage of design and funding efforts spanning three years — you do not have the authority, nor right to build,” he wrote.
Mr. Culbert wrote that while his former partner Celia Imrey took on the project under the name of her firm, Imrey Studio, and partnered with Tappe Associates, an architecture firm based in Boston, the intellectual property rights still belong to Imrey Culbert LP. Mr. Culbert said miscredit for the design would be akin to the library giving credit “for a number of books in your new facility to other authors, let’s say Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is credited to Mark Twain . . . ”
Speaking to the Gazette on Thursday, Celia Imrey strongly disputed the account and said the letter is the result of an acrimonious divorce between her and Mr. Culbert. She said her lawyers have been in contact with the town.
“The statements in Mr. Culbert’s letter have no basis in law or fact, and are replete with false and defamatory statements that are actionable at law,” Ms. Imrey wrote in part in an email to the Gazette. She said the only contract between the town and Imrey Culbert LP was completed in April 2011, and concerned conceptual design services in which Mr. Culbert did not have a role.
Ms. Imrey further notes that the contract with the town includes clauses that contradict Mr. Culbert’s statement. She said the town owns the design.
“Imrey Culbert LP ceased business by June 2011 and had no role (and could not have had any role because it had ceased business) in any subsequent work relating to the Edgartown Public Library,” Ms. Imrey wrote.
The entire matter has been turned over to Edgartown attorneys for review.
Library project manager Rick Pomroy said he had no comment on the matter except to say that the town is waiting for responses from all involved parties. He confirmed that the town is opening general bids for library construction next Friday. Mr. Pomroy said construction is planned to begin within 30 days of accepting a bid. “It’s moving right along,” he said of the new library project.
Carl Watt, chairman of the library building design committee, said he had only recently received news of the issue and wasn’t aware of any action to be taken.
“We’re just proceeding ahead,” he said “It’s a terrific project for Edgartown.”
He said the library hopes to start work this winter, weather permitting, with foundation work expected to begin in February. The goal is to complete the project by June of 2015.
The 15,400 square foot library will be built next to the Edgartown School at the site of the old school which has been torn down. Work is underway; the old Edgartown School was demolished over the summer, making way for the new building.
The library will cost about $11 million. Edgartown will spend about $4.9 million in town money on the project. Most of the remaining funding will come from a grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners’ library construction program.
The current library on North Water street was built in 1904, a gift from philanthropist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Edgartown has discussed replacing or expanding the library for the last decade or so.