Wednesday, May 09, 2007

TOP STORY >>Contract for center in Cabot too vague

Leader staff writer

The budget committee of the Cabot City Council said Monday night that the contract for building the community center was vague and probably had not been properly followed, so the city arguably does not owe the $74,382 that remains unpaid to the architect and construction manager. Still, most agreed with the city attorney that not paying would land the city in a court battle that would almost certainly be lost.

“I think the city needs to pay whatever bills we need to pay and move on,” said City Attorney Jim Taylor. When committee members asked why, he responded, “Because we’d be digging in a mud hole.”

Alderman Eddie Cook, chairman of the committee, agreed. “We just need to pay our bills and move on,” he said. At issue are the changes in construction plans, called change orders, which led to cost overruns. The change orders totaled $97,572. Of that amount, $29,619 is still owed to Kullander Construction. Additionally, the city owes architects Taggard, Foster, Currence & Gray $44,761.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams received the bill for the change orders in January shortly after he took office. The building account was emptied to pay all but the $29,619. Then, Williams turned the matter over to the budget committee, say ing the bill was more than his $20,000 spending limit.

What surfaced as the matter discussed, however, was that all the change orders were verbal. Nothing was in writing. The contract with the architects gave them authority to approve change orders for the city, but it said they were to provide written copies of the change orders and proper documentation as to the necessity of the change orders. However, the contract didn’t specify when the city should receive the paperwork.

In this case, the change order was prepared in April after Taylor asked for it, and there was no supporting documentation.
“We paid a bill before we had the change order,” Alderman Teri Miessner said during the discussion Monday night. “I’m not OK with that.”

But Alderman Becky Lemaster, who deals with contracts in her used car business, said the city had voided the contract anyway when Williams paid the $67,953 without the proper paperwork. Lemaster said the city should pay the remaining bills and try to collect from the company that prepared the site instead.

A problem with the dirt work was discovered during excavation for the pool. The remedy for that problem cost the city an additional $37,073.

Since Williams took office, all ordinances and other council action must go before one of the three council committees he created before being considered by the full council. In theory, if the five members of a committee approve an action, it will pass with little discussion when it goes before the full council.

But only three committee members attended the Monday budget committee meeting and Miesser said she would not vote to pay the bills on the community center. So instead of voting to approve paying the bills, the committee voted to send the matter to the full council when it meets May 21.