Fair board files countersuit against contractor

Published 10:40 am Friday, August 10, 2012

ROME TOWNSHIP — The Lawrence County Fair Board wants a minimum of $525,000 in damages from the contractor who was first hired to put up the livestock barn and arena at the fairgrounds.

In a lawsuit filed in Lawrence County Wednesday, the fair board, through its attorney Donald Capper, seeks more than $25,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages from Jeff Simmons, owner of Structure Steel, in Canton.

Simmons was hired by the fair board in February to put up the barn and arena, estimated to cost $400,000. The fair board had sought pledges in that amount to pay for the construction.

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However, in May the fair board terminated its contract with Simmons citing delays in the project and Simmons’ refusal to return $198,000 he was paid for work that the fair board said he did not do.

In June, Simmons filed a breach of contract suit against the fair board in Stark County, where his business is located. In his lawsuit the contractor claimed he had met his obligations under the contract and was due all money that he had received and that the contract termination was wrongful.

Capper recently filed a motion for a change of venue in that lawsuit, seeking to move the case to Lawrence County. A hearing on that request has not been set.

The fair board’s lawsuit claims that “at the time Simmons submitted the invoice for the additional $198,000, Simmons had failed and refused to pay his subcontractor for work performed in the excavation work in preparation of installing a foundation for the livestock barn. The defendant’s subcontractor, due to failure of payment, threatened to file a lien upon the (fair board’s) property at the fairgrounds and stopped work on the livestock barn.”

Then the fair board hired another contractor under a contract that did not include installing fans and electrical work, “which had been part of the initial contract with defendant so that plaintiff incurred additional costs for installation of fans and electrical and has suffered the cost as additional damages and costs due to Simmons’ breach of contract,” the suit states.

The fair board also claims Simmons ordered a different building from what was requested by the fair board.

“Simmons deliberately, intentionally and knowingly changed the model of metal building delivered to one that was different and inferior to the model promised to be delivered,” the suit claims.

The suit also seeks costs, attorney fees, interest and other relief.