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Construction project sparks debate in city of Prestonville

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By Jeff Moore

A cloud of controversy surrounds the Prestonville recreation center and city building being constructed on New Castle Street.

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During a contentious Prestonville City Commission meeting Monday, Nov. 12, accusations flew, raising questions about back-dated contracts and whether the contractor was one of the original bidders on the project, as well as contractor requests for payment on materials they had to purchase, problems with the structure, and whether the mayor had the grant funds for the project.

Nothing was resolved at the regular meeting as commissioners, the mayor, the contractor and citizens argued and tempers flared at times over how the project got to this point. Nor was there resolution when the city commission held a special meeting Monday, Nov. 19, during which they discussed the matter in closed session, citing probable litigation.

The steel structure and roof have been installed on a concrete pad poured at the site near the Kentucky River. The contractor, Can Do Construction LLC of Carrollton, has stopped work on the project, citing concerns over requests to alter the building’s structural integrity.

“These things need to be brought out on the table,” Can Do Construction’s Stacie Hendricks told the commission Nov. 12. “Things have gotten screwed up, turned around, misconstrued.”

Hendricks said she and her husband, Raymond, learned about the city’s project when they saw a crew burning an old barn on the site in June. They contend this is when they met Mayor Vickie Burgin for the first time, and she asked them to submit a bid to construct the building.

Stacie Hendricks said theyoffered a verbal bid at that time. “I went home. I typed up the original bid and I submitted it to them on June 16,” she said.

The city commission opened and awarded the project bids at its April 9 commission meeting.

“Vickie came to me and asked me to back-date the paperwork, said there was problems with the council over here, people were fighting and arguing to keep the heat down,” Stacie Hendricks told the commission. “That’s when I started to get suspicious.”

“So you’re saying that you forged documents,” Burgin asked her.

“By your request,” Stacie Hendricks responded.  “I didn’t forge documents. You asked me to back-date. I did not know the bids were closed. I want that on the record.”

Burgin disagreed.

“So I have no ultimate purpose to do all that,” Burgin said. “I was trying to help you all. You put in the estimate that was cheaper. Everybody voted to go for the cheapest bid. You all got it.”

Stacie Hendricks said that’s not how it transpired.

“That’s one word against the other,” Burgin said.

But Commissioner Robert “Spike” Barnes said he didn’t recall the Can Do Construction bid being one of the bids opened when the project was awarded April 9.

“I’d like to know who was the original bidder of this job to start with. I’d like to see who got the original bid,” Barnes said.

It was noted during the meeting that Can Do Construction’s contract and the signature of Raymond Hendricks with the company is dated April 7, two days prior to the commission’s meeting.

“You’re saying you signed this, but it’s not true?” Commissioner Rae Stevens asked. Raymond Hendricks said yes.

Burgin said the documents were dated April 7 because they were prepared prior to the April 9 meeting where they bids were opened.

In an interview at the city building Monday, Burgin said Can Do Construction’s bid was among those on the table April 7. However, it was not listed with other bids in the meeting’s minutes and she said it was not mentioned on the tape of the meeting.

Burgin explained how this occurred. She said the bids were opened and passed around the table, landing in several different piles. She said Commissioner Wilk Hoskins and Clerk/Treasurer Deborah Wright then went through a pile that they apparently thought included all of the bids.

“They picked who they thought appeared lowest from the piles they had. … Unfortunately Can Do’s bid wasn’t in their pile,” she said. “So it didn’t get listed in the minutes.”

All the bids were placed back in a folder until June, when Burgin received enough money to start the project.

“The commissioners voted to accept the lowest bids,” Burgin said. When she went back to the folder to get the project moving forward, she picked out the lowest bids for the job. Can Do Construction’s was the lowest for the concrete work, coming in slightly lower than Bimp McAlister, who was believed to have been the low bidder according to the meeting minutes.

“So I did exactly what the commissioner’s said,” she said.

Burgin believes there are reasons why the company is making the accusations about the contract.

“They’re trying to break the contracts,” she said. “I guess they won’t feel like they have to pay back ... all the money that they took” for the work she says is faulty and needs to be repaired.

In the event any misconduct is found in connection with the allegations made at the meeting, County Attorney Nick Marsh would be the official in charge of prosecuting the case, according to state law.

In a Monday interview, Marsh could not comment on the allegations that were made at the meeting.

“I will review the situation and if an investigation is in order, law enforcement will be contacted,” he said.

At the Nov. 12 meeting, concerns were raised that the city commission wasn’t up to speed on what was happening at the building.

“I’ve been hearing that the council don’t know what’s going on. They haven’t seen contracts,” Stacie Hendricks said. The contractors said they wanted to discuss the matter in an open forum.

Burgin said the commissioners are up on the project.

“Every single month they get every paper, receipts and bills. Everything gets brought up before them,” she said.

Stacie Hendricks asked the commissioners if any of them had seen the building’s blueprints. They said no; several also said they hadn’t seen the contracts.

In the Monday interview, Burgin pulled out copies of the monthly bills that are approved by the commission, including payments made to Can Do Construction.

“We make copies and every commissioner gets this exact thing,” she said, pointing to a copy. “So they get copies of all the receipts and everything.”

She said the commissioners also sign a sheet on top of the payments and deposits made at the meetings after they approve them.

Project costs

Stacie Hendricks brought a payout sheet and copies of bills to the Nov. 12 meeting to show that Prestonville still owes them $17,626 for the project. The sheet shows the city has already paid them $31,857.

Stacie Hendricks said the amount due is mostly for supplies they had to purchase to complete the work they performed. She noted that their bid was for labor only on constructing the building.

Burgin disagreed, pointing to her breakdown of payments to Can Do Construction.

“It’s going to be ‘she said, she said’ on the contract,” Burgin said. “We owe them $2,530. That’s it. That should cover the whole building being put up, the doors — everything.”

A list of payments compiled by Burgin shows the city has paid Can Do Construction $22,750 out of the total $25,280 they bid on the project. She said they did pay the company an additional $500 to unload the truck that delivered the building and $600 for Mike Jones to do some ground work at the site.

Stacie Hendricks said there was no way to complete a metal steel frame building for their bid, which she said was for a metal pole barn kit. She contends that is what Burgin told her, but the mayor disagrees.

When the bids were voted on in April, the commission voted that the project would total about $65,000. This includes the $19,300 to Renegade Steel Buildings, $7,492 to Troxell Electric for the electrical work and $4,645 to Roger Simmons for plumbing work on the project.

To complete the work on the building, Raymond Hendricks estimated that it would cost another $10,000 beyond the $17,626 they are owed according to the payout sheet to complete the building.

None of the quotes, from Can Do Construction or Lindsay Construction, include completing the interior work at the recreation center and city hall.

Project funding

Prestonville commissioners expressed frustration over how work on the building has been funded.

At the Nov. 12 meeting, Barnes argued that the commission gave clear instructions that the project should not be undertaken unless its costs would be covered by grants.

But Burgin said it was discussed at the April meeting and it was unreasonable to expect 100 percent grant money. Most grants are matching 50/50 funds.

Stevens agreed.

“And everybody argued and argued … and then made the motion and accepted the bid,” Burgin said. “The [city attorney Alecia Hubbard] said that when the motion was made that it wasn’t with the 100 percent grant” provision.

Minutes from the meeting, which were approved by the commission, reflect that the motion was made without a condition on funding. They state: “Wilk [Hoskins] made motion to accept lowest bids and Robert Dixon second (sic) the motion. There were four ayes and one abstained from the vote.”

Barnes was the commissioner who abstained.

“Have you got any grants?” citizen James McArter asked Burgin at the Nov. 12 meeting.

She said she had $20,000 that came from Carroll County Fiscal Court and another $5,000 from the state. Burgin said she was led to believe the money from the county was a grant.

Citizens said the money from the county is not a grant. Magistrate Floyd Bowling, who was in attendance, agreed, saying the county doesn’t give grants. However, he said it was up to the city to determine how to use the county money it receives.

In Monday’s interview at the city building, Burgin said the city attorney advised her that the commission should vote to revise the motion to include both grants and donations for the project.

Bowling agreed with Burgin and Stevens that the city was very unlikely to receive 100 percent grant funding.

“We all said in the whole meetings and everything, only if it’s grant money to be built,” Barnes said. “Land can be sitting there.” The city purchased the site earlier in the year for $20,000.

“It was only suppose to be built with 100 percent grant money,” Barnes said.

Commissioner Robert Dixon made a motion to stop any additional work on the building until the city had the grant funding in hand to pay for the work. The commission agreed to delay any decision on this until after it meets with Hubbard.

Commissioner Wilk Hoskins said he didn’t believe they would be able to resolve the matter at this meeting.

“I think we should postpone this until we talk with [the city attorney]” and have her look over everything, Stevens said. Hubbard, the city attorney, left the meeting around 6:30 p.m. because she also represents the city of Glencoe that meets on the same night.

“I think we should be advised by counsel,” Barnes agreed.

Special meeting

Prestonville commissioners met Monday, Nov. 19, for a special called meeting with one item on the agenda: A closed session to discuss litigation.

Citizen James McArter told the commission that he did not believe the meeting was legal and he refused to leave after the vote to go into closed session.

Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputy Clay Cable was called  to the meeting, and McArter agreed to wait outside.

McArter said he wanted it on the record with the sheriff’s office that he did not believe the meeting was being held properly.

After more than 90 minutes behind closed doors, the commission came into open session and voted to end the meeting, with no action taken.