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Fair board, commissioner focus of lawsuit

ROME TOWNSHIP — County Commissioner Freddie Hayes and the Lawrence County Fair Board are being sued for breach of contract by the original contractor on the fair barn project.

At the time the contract was executed in February Hayes was president of the fair board and signed the contract. Upon his appointment in April to the county commission, Hayes resigned from the fair board.

The lawsuit was filed in Stark County on June 28 by Jeff Simmons, owner of Structure Steel Buildings of Canton.

Structure Steel was hired by the fair board in February to build an approximately $400,000 livestock barn and show arena to be ready for this year’s fair starting on Sunday.

The fair board terminated that contract in May citing delays, little work completed and refusal by the contractor to return approximately $200,000 the board said Structure Steel should not have received because there was no work done for that compensation.

A subsequent contractor was hired by the fair board to erect the barn.

According to the contract payment was to have been made in five installments with the first one of $99,825 made at the time the contract was signed. There were to be three more payments of $99,825 each throughout the project with the remaining balance paid at the completion of the barn.

The fair board does not contest the initial payment saying it was to cover the cost of the barn material. In dispute are the next two payments, which the fair board said were made without its authorization.

Simmons has publicly said he could not proceed with the work until the necessary permits were acquired, which, according to the contract, was the responsibility of the fair board.

In the complaint Simmons lists the work that he said had been done on the project by his firm including delivery of the building; excavation of the footer and pad; stone base delivered and installed; concrete poured to create bottom mat for footer; steel bar delivered and installed; geotech soil inspection ordered and completed; and eight onsite meetings.

Hayes disputes that.

“Some of that work was done by Rolo Construction and was not paid by Structure Steel,” Hayes said.

Also in dispute is the funding for the project that was originally to be financed from pledges the fair board solicited last year. The fair board asked the county commission to act as the fiscal agent borrowing $400,000 from PNC Bank for the fair board. Those pledges were to be used to pay back the county.

Simmons’ complaint contends that changed the funding complexion of the project.

“The contract was entered into under the understanding that the project was privately funded,” the complaint states. “On or about May 17, contrary to prior representations, plaintiff was led to believe that public funds were being used for the funding of the project, which would require that prevailing wages be paid and additional reporting requirements be met, significantly affecting the cost to complete the project. … plaintiff has performed all of his obligations currently due under the agreement when defendants terminated the contract. … by their wrongful termination, defendants have breached the contract entered into.”

Hayes, who is represented by Proctorville attorney Donald Capper, said a dismissal of the lawsuit and a change of venue are sought.

“They have named the wrong person and the wrong entities,” Hayes said. “We are trying to get it moved to this county where the barn was sold and delivered.

The complaint asks for compensatory damages in excess of $25,000; declaratory judgment that the contractor can retain all payments received so far; and costs. A jury trial is sought.