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Sub contractors on county project have not been paid

Two local firms that have worked on the yet-to-be-completed renovation of a suite of offices in the Grady County Agri Center leased to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency have not been paid and these and other subcontractors are crying foul.
J&J Carpets and Carter-Wilkes Heating & Air, both local businesses, have worked on the renovation project, but have yet to be paid. Representatives of the firms have been calling county officials in hopes of being paid.
The issue became public Tuesday night when commissioners questioned Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar about his management of the project.
This is not the first time Tobar has been questioned in a public meeting regarding the renovation. In March, the board was urged by former commissioner Charles Norton to take a field trip to the Agri Center and get more involved in overseeing the work.
At that March meeting, it was learned that through Feb. 23, 2017 the county had already paid general contractor Taylor Construction of Thomasville $52,310.80 of the $96,300 contract and, according to USDA officials, less than a quarter of the work had been done at that time.
The commissioners had instructed Tobar in March not to pay Taylor any more money until the project, which began in September 2016, was completed.
On Tuesday night, Commissioner Keith Moye asked if the subs had been paid. Tobar said no, but he said that the required paperwork had only recently been submitted by the sub contractors.
According to Tobar, the subs were requested to sign and submit interim release of liens to MLD Architects of Tallahassee, the firm Tobar selected to manage the renovation project, before payment would be issued.
Commissioner Ray Prince said he would not sign anything releasing the general contractor, Brent Taylor of Taylor Construction of Thomasville, without receiving payment. County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley said that typically lien releases are only signed when payment is received. “It’s like a receipt,” Cauley said of the lien release.
The Messenger reached out to the sub contractors involved Tuesday night following the commission meeting. Nancy McClenny, who owns J&J Carpets with her son John, said that through May 28 her family owned business was owed $9,250 and additional work had been done since then that the firm was also owed money for. According to Tobar, Carter-Wilkes Heating & Air is owed $10,000.
According to the sub contractors, they were told that Taylor had signed documents indicating the sub contractors had been paid.
“We’re working to get everyone paid,” Tobar said Tuesday.
Commissioner T.D. David read aloud an email he had sent to Tobar last Friday. David stated, “The financially suicidal path this project is on needs to be dealt with now. We have local vendors who are owed for work completed because the crooked general contractor took the money and ran. This treatment of our local businesses is unacceptable. I know you’ve attempted to resolve this through several ways, but nothing is producing results. And it appears Taylor isn’t even supported by a bonding company? I know there are protracted, legal methods that should be followed, but it’s my opinion that we should pay our local vendors and duke it out with Brent Taylor ourselves. This is disgraceful. The word is already out about this and we can easily find ourselves with no locals willing to do business with us. I believe we’ve backed ourselves into this corner with no timely solution coming from Kevin (Cauley), J.J. Scott (of MLD Architects), Brent Taylor or you. Let’s act on this and clear it up now.”
Commissioner Moye asked how much the county has not paid to the general contractor at this point. According to Tobar, there is approximately $30,000 remaining.
“Everything we do now hinges on this guy’s (Taylor’s) honesty and he has proven in the past he has none,” David noted.
The county attorney said the county had the power of the purse strings and said the county could use the remaining funds to pay the subs and deduct that from the remainder of what Taylor is due.
The county administrator said that he has asked Taylor to overnight the checks. Apparently, Taylor has closed his operations in Thomas County and is now working out of Florida. The sub contractors have expressed fears that Taylor and the architects have been paid and they are left shorted.
Tobar said only the work on the restrooms is lacking, but Prince said there were lots of “little” things that needed to be done in addition to the bathroom.
Mrs. McClenny said she and her son do not intend to go back on the site until they are paid for the work they have completed and materials purchased for the county project.
“I’m trying to save face, our face. We should always pay our people on time,” David said before offering a motion for the county to process payments to the local subs today and work to settle the matter with Taylor. Commissioner LaFaye Copeland seconded David’s motion.
“This project has been a mess from the beginning. It was never supposed to take this long,” Copeland said. Prince said the agreement was for the project to have been completed in February.
David also questioned Tobar’s explanation of the delayed submission of paperwork. He said something was not right if both sub contractors got it wrong.
Prince said the general contractor was neither honest nor dependable. “We accepted the low bid and we should have known something then,” Prince commented.
Taylor Construction bid $96,300 and the other bids for the project received were $135,606.55 from Straight Arrow Development of Whigham and $181,963 from GFA Design Build of Cairo. Taylor’s bid was accepted by the board in August 2016.
The county contracted with MLD Architects of Tallahassee on the recommendation of Tobar, who said previously he based his recommendation on the firm’s agreement to do pro bono work for the Grady County Historical Society for the Grady County Museum and History Center. The board paid MLD Architects $4,035 for its work on the Agri Center project.
Tobar said if the board approved David’s motion he would need to contact MLD Architects to get them to verify the work had been completed and the amount to be paid to the subs.
Copeland asked Tobar how much the county currently owes Taylor. The county administrator said that he did not know the final total but estimated it to be between $26,000 and $27,000.
“Legally, we’re not responsible to pay the subs, but morally, we are,” Prince said.
Commissioner Moye noted that the sub contractors had been hired by Taylor and not the county. “Our contract is with Taylor, not them,” Moye said. Moye also complained the board was not being provided with “concrete numbers” on which to base a decision.
Tobar indicated Taylor had too much at stake not to make it right with the sub contractors, the federal government and Grady County and come back to finish the project.
There was a brief mention of David rescinding his motion, but he did not. After the motion was determined to be deadlocked with David and Copeland voting to authorize the county to pay the sub contractors and Prince and Moye voting against, Copeland said that she thought she was voting in favor of rescinding the original motion. She then said her vote would be with Prince and Moye not to pay the subs so David’s motion died 3-1.
“Brent Taylor has plenty of incentive to do the right thing,” Tobar said and Prince commented, “Let’s just give this a little more time.”
According to Tobar, an electrician and plumber, neither of which are local, are also owed money on the project.
In other business Tuesday night, the county commission:
Elected Commissioner Ray Prince as chairman of the board following the recent resignation of Elwyn Childs as the District 1 commissioner and named Commissioner T.D. David as vice chairman.
Approved spending $14,000 from the county’s contingency fund to purchase a used four-wheel drive truck for Grady County Lake Authority Executive Director Mike Binion’s use. The truck Binion currently drives has 265,000 miles on it. On the recommendation of Tobar, Binion’s truck will be retained as a motor pool truck and the current motor pool truck, which has 115,000 miles on it, will be transferred to the county’s animal control department to replace a truck with over 300,000 miles and a defective engine.
Heard a presentation from Grady County Chief Appraiser Susan Bennett explaining the process the board of assessors office uses when reevaluating residential property in the county.
Authorized Tobar to attend a workshop conducted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on Monday in Perry. The county administrator said he needed to attend to learn more about requirements regarding nature trails as the county considers improvements at the Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve.
Heard concerns raised by John Monds during the public participation portion of the meeting. Monds renewed his opposition to Messenger Editor Randolph Wind serving on the Grady County Lake Authority. Monds said that comments made by the county’s consultant William F. Butler regarding the market research study being conducted on the Tired Creek Lake project were omitted, in his opinion, to manipulate public opinion. “Some things you are stuck with, but this is something you definitely can change. I would seriously consider doing that. Monds also questioned how Lake Authority Chairman Lee Gainous is permitted to serve on the authority when he owns property near the lake. “I think he is a great guy and I have no issues with him personally, but having people on that board with some conflicts of interest is very troubling in my mind. I don’t like it one bit and I’m sick of how this is coming about,” Monds said. Lastly, Monds took issue with the county attorney. He questioned if Cauley had advised the board about the alleged conflicts of interest. Monds said he previously questioned the fees Cauley had been paid from the issuance of bonds used to finance the construction of the dam. “You ought to address these issues,” Monds said.
Met behind closed doors with the Grady County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley to discuss a real estate matter. Following the closed session the board voted to authorize Chairman Prince to execute a lease with the Reno Community Volunteer Firefighters Association for $2,500 per year for a communications tower to be erected on the grounds of the Reno VFD station. Cauley is to draft the lease agreement and present it to be signed.

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