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Bankruptcy filing halts upcoming barn trial

ROME TOWNSHIP — The civil trial between the Lawrence County Agricultural Society and the contractor hired more than a year ago to erect a fair barn has been postponed indefinitely. The trial had been scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

On April 30, Jeff Simmons, owner of Structure Steel of Canton, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Ohio.

Chapter 7 allows for the sale of debtor’s nonexempt property and its distribution to creditors.

“It has put a stay on this case,” Donald R. Capper, attorney for the fair board, said. “Whenever there is a bankruptcy, it stays all other proceedings. Bankruptcy court will marshal the assets of the creditors and decide who has priority under the law.”

Structure Steel had the original contract to build a $400,000 livestock barn and arena for the 4-H Junior Fair that had been let in February 2012. However in May, the fair board terminated that contract alleging that Simmons had not completed the work that he had received close to $200,000 for and that the project was behind schedule.

That termination prompted the first of two lawsuits that were filed in Ohio common pleas courts when Simmons sued the fair board for breach of contract Simmons claimed he had met all the obligations of his contract up to the time and that the fair board had wrongfully terminated him from the project.

Simmons’ argument was that he had completed all of the project that he was able to since necessary permits had not been secured. He also claimed he was owed all the money that he had received.

In August, the fair board countersued seeking $525,000 in damages — $25,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.

In the spring of 2012, the fair board hired another contractor to finish the barn by the July fair time pushing the total cost of the project to close to $700,000.

In documents filed in bankruptcy court Simmons is listed as having $1,050,270 in assets and $802,768 in liabilities. Of that liability figure $90,200 is a secured claim for real estate. The remaining 49 claims are unsecured including one for $59,493 from Rolo Excavating of Proctorville. Rolo had been hired by Simmons as a subcontractor for the barn project.

Besides Rolo other five-figure unsecured claims include $67,298 from Sunbelt Rentals of Atlanta, Ga.,$32,322 from Bay Industries of Green Bay, Wis., $30, 450 from Alexander Electric from Columbus, Ga., $23,700 from Fire Protection Solutions of Columbus, Ga., $20,579 from Adams Trucking and Supply of Barboursville, W.Va., and $14,448 from American Crane of Reynoldsburg.

“What we will have to do is file a claim with the bankruptcy court and see what happens from there,” Capper said. “I will be monitoring the bankruptcy.”