Columbia County officials took action today to end a relationship with a contractor taking too long on a stormwater project in the Martinez neighborhood of Springlakes.
County Water Utility Director Bill Clayton told members of the county Public Works Services Committee this morning that he intended to send a notice of termination to Jeffery Harris Trucking to stop work on a culvert replacement project on Sandalwood Drive.
The deadline to finish the project is Friday, but Clayton said that just about half of the work is complete.
Harris disagreed. He said this afternoon by telephone that 70 to 75 percent of the work is done, but didn’t speculate on if he will meet the Friday deadline.
Clayton said Harris or his insurance company has five days to respond to the termination notice.
Harris said today that he has received the termination notice and intends to meet with officials on Monday. However, He said he needed time to review his notes on the project before answering questions. As 1:30 p.m., Harris had not yet called to offer details.
“I just don’t think this type of work is what he’s accustomed to,” Clayton told commissioners regarding Harris.
Another bidding process might not be required to complete the unfinished job.
“We have to get somebody in there pretty fast to finish up what he’s got opened up,” Clayton said this afternoon. “We can’t rebid that and take all that time. We have roads opened up over there.”
However, Clayton said the replacement of a culvert on Kestwick Drive, which also was part of this project, might be rebid. He said he doesn’t know yet how the county might proceed.
Following heavy rains, properties upstream of Springlakes on Reed Creek often flood. The $814,000 project is meant to prevent that flooding by widening the culverts and parts of the creek.
Though Harris turned in the lowest bid, he nearly didn’t win the project due to misgivings by officials regarding this abilities.
“The issue ... is that in some of the background information we got on him; we didn’t get the best recommendations for his company as far as their ability to perform a job of that magnitude,” Clayton warned commissioners in May prior to them awarding the project to Harris.
During an April meeting, the project engineer, W.R. Toole Engineers, recommended that commissioners award the contract to Bean Construction, even though its bid was about $200,000 more than the one submitted by Harris.
“We’re more than qualified to do the job,” Harris said to commissioners in his defense. “It’s a fairly easy job.”
Reluctant to subvert the bidding process, the commission ignored the warnings and awarded Harris the contract.