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County terminates contract with Taylor, issues payment to subcontractors

After months of seeking payment for work he had done on the renovation of a Grady County facility, John McClenny of J&J Carpets walked out of the Grady County Courthouse Tuesday morning with a $13,121.11 check in hand.
Grady County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to terminate the county’s contract with Taylor Construction of Thomasville for the renovation of the suite of offices leased to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.
J.J. Scott of MLD Architects made the recommendation for the contract termination due in part to the project duration extending over 250 days past the original completion date and the contractor’s unwillingness or inability to pay the subcontractors, of which J&J Carpet was one.
The issue of nonpayment became public at the county commission meeting on Sept. 19. At that meeting, Grady County Commissioner T.D. David pushed for the county to pay the local subcontractors, but the board voted him down.
On Tuesday, Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar said that in his entire career, dating back to 1994, this was the first project that has resulted in a contract termination. “We’re all sick about this, but let’s make the best of it, cancel the contract and allow the building and grounds department to do the touch-up work. There is a long list of small items to be addressed,” Tobar said.
Grady County Commission Chairman Ray Prince said the primary issue now is finishing the bathroom. Tobar reported that he had the fixtures locked up so that the fixtures did not “walk away.”
To date, the county has paid Taylor Construction $89,697. The original contract was for $96,300. Scott submitted a list of three subcontractors, including J&J Carpet, who were owed a total of $41,783.23.
Carter-Wilkes Heating & Air of Cairo was owed $16,650 and Scott-Burnette, a plumbing contractor from Tallahassee is allegedly owed $12,012.12.
“What about the electrician? How much are they owed?” Commissioner Keith Moye questioned Tobar.
According to the county administrator, Taylor never supplied the county or MLD Architects with a list of subcontractors. The county’s contract with Taylor stipulated that the general contractor was required to produce a list of subcontractors and the county and its architect had the right to object to any subcontractor within 10 days of notice from Taylor.
Scott warned there may be other subcontractors that worked on the project that may not have been paid.
Commissioner  David asked Tobar if J.J. Scott was the project manager on the Agri Center renovation project and Tobar said he was. However, Scott told The Messenger Tuesday he was not the project manager, but was the project architect.
“It was my job to verify the contractor was doing the construction as designed and permitted. I was not asked to be project manager. The county looked to me to be the architect on the project,” Scott said.
The architect said in his role he was an advocate for the county and he did attempt to look out for the best interests of the county. Scott described his role more as a liaison between the contractor and the county.
Tobar recommended MLD Architects to the county commission after the firm had done pro bono work for the Grady County Historical Society. The county has paid MLD $13,948 for architectural services related to the project.
“Carlos and I did everything possible to motivate (Brent) Taylor to motivate him, but he didn’t respond to any of it,” Scott said.
Scott said there is a balance of $16,198 to finish the project and the retainage is $4,484.85.
Commission Chairman Prince along with Tobar and County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley met last week with Taylor in an effort to resolve the issue of paying the subcontractors, but Taylor indicated he was not able to pay them at this time.
Commissioner LaFaye Copeland said that as far as the board knew the work was being done and there were no issues until former commissioner Charles Norton came to the board in March reporting there were problems. “It’s been a mess ever since,” she commented.
Commissioner Copeland also complained that Taylor was not bonded. Chairman Prince said that a bond was not required since the project was under $100,000, but Commissioner David said the county should consider a bond in the future.
Tobar warned that a bond requirement would increase the cost of the project.
“We went with the lowest bid and we found out it wasn’t the best,” Copeland stated.
Chairman Prince said that if only calls had been made to surrounding governments this problem may have been averted. Prince said that Thomas County and Mitchell County had had issues with Taylor Construction.
Cauley suggested in the future the county request references and check with the references before accepting a proposal from a contractor.
“If we had done that on this we would have known not to go with Taylor,” Chairman Prince said.
Tobar refused to assume any responsibility and said that it would have been up to MLD Architects to check references. The administrator said the architect inspected the work, determined what was owed and submitted a report to him which he verified the math and then issued payment.
Commissioner David offered a public apology to Nancy and John McClenny, the mother and son owners of the local flooring business. “This is not the way we intend to treat our local vendors and we hope you will come back and not go through this again. We thank you for your patience,” David said.
Tobar asked for, but did not receive the board’s blessing to file online reviews about the county’s experience with Taylor Construction.
Commissioner Moye said Tobar’s time could be better spent than submitting lots of negative reviews on various websites.
Moye also said the board was not aware of money owed to the plumber last week and he wondered aloud how much is owed to the electrician and other subcontractors.
“My emphasis has been on the local vendors. Can we pay some and not others?” David asked.
Chairman Prince reminded the board the county did not have a legal obligation to pay the subs, but did have a moral obligation to do so.
Cauley asked Tobar if he had verified the amount that was claimed to be owed to the plumber and the administrator indicated he had not.
The county attorney suggested paying those that had provided copies of invoices to the county and the architect, which both J&J Carpet and Carter-Wilkes Heating & Air had done.
David revised his motion to terminate the contract with Taylor and to pay subcontractors on the project once the legitimacy of their charges had been verified by Tobar.
County officials say they intend to attempt to recoup what the county pays the subcontractors from Taylor Construction.
In other business Tuesday, Commissioner Moye questioned why the performance evaluation of County Administrator Tobar had been delayed. Chairman Prince said he was waiting for the election of a new board member, however Commissioner David noted that the new commissioner would not have worked with Tobar and would be incapable of evaluating his performance for a minimum of six months. County Clerk Carrie Kines Croy said she would prepare the evaluation instrument and distribute it to the commissioners.

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