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It may be that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in the case of the Grady County Board of Commissioners, a picture ended up being worth more than $30,000.
Last Tuesday night, June 18, the county commission went on record and refused to pay a $7,000 repair bill from a local business and were willing for a court to issue judgment in the case if necessary.
The dispute between the county and Ag-Pro of Cairo stems from Sept. 13, 2018, when Ag-Pro was called to pick up a county motor grader for repairs. The local firm had repaired the piece of heavy equipment just days prior when it went out of service.
According to county officials, county shop superintendent Chris Dix was told by officials with Ag-Pro that the necessary repairs to the 26-year-old piece of equipment would be covered by warranty. After incurring $7,000 for labor and parts to break down the motor grader, Ag-Pro officials determined the repairs were in fact not covered and the total cost of repairs was estimated between $26,000 and $35,000.
Dix questioned Ag-Pro officials about the warranty on the earlier repairs and he was told that the Ag-Pro employee who had told him it would be a warranty repair had misspoken.
Dix and other county officials, including Commissioner Ray Prince, say that the damage to the machine was caused from faulty repairs by Ag-Pro mechanics initially. County officials claim that a lock washer was not properly secured, which resulted in the catastrophic failure of the machine.
Grady County administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, says Dix would have sought his approval and the approval of the county commission for any repairs over $500.
“The Ag-Pro folks admitted that they misspoke when they talked to Chris. We would not spend that kind of money to repair a 26-year-old piece of equipment,” Johnson told commissioners last week.
However, Ag-Pro personnel contended the repairs were made properly. Johnson noted that Ag-Pro mechanics could produce the nut that backed off and led to the major damage, but not the washer.
According to Johnson, county officials, including himself, Commissioner Prince, Superintendent Dix and Commissioner Phillip Drew had attempted to resolve the matter before bringing the issue up in a public meeting.
The county administrator warned commissioners last week that the company may sue the county, but he remained steadfast in stating, “I do not believe we owe this money.”
Later in the week, Dix discovered he had a photograph on his cell phone which proved the lock washer had not been put in place, which allowed the bolt to back off while the machine was in operation and cause the major damage.
Once county officials shared the photographic evidence, Ag Pro officials acknowledged the damage was in fact caused by mechanic error and agreed to pick up the motor grader and repair it at no cost to the county.
“I’m sorry we could not resolve this issue sooner, but Ag Pro is going to make it good. We have no ill will and we look forward to doing business with them again. There just was no arguing with that photo,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Ag Pro is waiving the $7,000 invoice to break down the machine to determine the extent of damage and also picked up the machine, which was transported in pieces by county crews back to the county shop after Ag Pro had said it would cost an additional $7,000 to put the machine back together.