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Committee to OK future payments on barn project

ROME TOWNSHIP — Amidst ongoing turmoil tied to the project, the Lawrence County Fair Board has set up a committee to oversee payments for the construction of a livestock barn and arena at the fairgrounds.

This comes after the fair board president disputed that he authorized the disbursement of $200,000 to the contractor who was fired from the job, an individual who is now threatening legal action.

“We appointed the committee to OK future payments,” Randall Lambert, fair barn committee chair, said. “The three members appointed (will approve) future payments to the contractor.”

Last week, the fair board terminated its contract with Structure Steel of Canton over delays in the project, the contractor’s failure to return what the board calls unearned money and the fair board’s concern that the barn would not be ready by the start of the fair on July 8.

The key dispute centers around almost $200,000 that Structure Steel received that the fair board said it did not earn. Funds for the barn came from the county commissioners who, acting as the fair board’s fiscal agent, borrowed $400,000 from PNC Bank at 2.99 percent. The fair board would repay the county through pledges secured for the project during last year’s fair.

Disbursement of those funds to the contractor was to be done by Tami Meade, commission administrator, at fair board instruction.

According to the contract signed by Freddie Hayes, then fair board president and now a county commissioner appointed in March, and Jeff Simmons, owner of Structure Steel, payment to the contractor was to have been made in four disbursements. The first of $99,825 was to be made at the execution of the contract. The next two were to be made after work was completed in installments of $99,825 each.

“A final payment of remaining balance shall be paid upon completion of work,” according to the contract that lists fair board president Jim Gore as the owner’s representative.

The first disbursement was made to pay for the metal for the prefabricated structure. That payment is not disputed by the fair board.

However the next two totaling close to $200,000 came under contention when Meade said she was authorized to pay Structure Steel by Jim Gore while Gore called the payments a mistake.

At a county commission work session Tuesday Gore defended his actions.

“I asked her to be prepared (to pay,) not to pay,” he said. “I don’t have much. I have a good reputation. I’m not going to take the main blame.”

However Gore also said those involved with the project need to move forward with its completion and “prosecuting to get the money back.”

Simmons, said the reason there was no work done on the barn project was because he had none of the necessary permits needed to start.

I can’t proceed without a permit,” Simmons said at the time the contract was terminated. “There has been no permit issued. That absolutely is not in my contract to provide the permit. … Legally, I can’t proceed.”

According to the contract, getting permits is the responsibility of the property owners and the subcontractors.

“Owner shall secure all permits, licenses and renewals required by government authority to complete construction of the project,” the contract states. “If permits are required for subcontracted work, subcontractors will secure those permits. Owner shall assist contractor in responding to requests for information from the permit-issuing authority. Owner shall provide contractor a copy of each permit, license and renewal issued by government authority for the project.”

Now as the fair board starts a legal battle to get back contested payments to Structure Steel it has engaged STI Construction from Powell to erect the barn. The possible schedule is for the footer to be poured on Thursday and construction could begin early next week.

The fair board hopes to issue $700,000 in bonds to be bought by the county through its Neighborhood Investment Program. Then it will use $400,000 of that to pay back the county the original money borrowed and the rest to cover new construction costs.

Paying back those bonds is expected to come from additional pledges and revenue from the fair. The fair normally nets $50,000 from the July event.