Columbia County officials have been told to “get in line” to get money from First Sealord Surety, the bonding company for Jeffery Harriss Trucking Co.
Despite warnings from officials, county commissioners awarded Harriss an $814,000 bid in May to replace culverts on Sandalwood Drive in the Springlakes neighborhood.
With only about half the work done as a November deadline approached, Water Utility Director Bill Clayton sent Harriss a notice of termination to halt work on the project.
After pulling Harriss off the drainage project, the county “called” the bond to claim the money to complete the work.
However, the bonding company has since dropped to a C-minus rating from an A+.
A First Sealord Surety representative said the county could have to argue its claim in court, along with others expecting bond money, County Administrator Scott Johnson said Friday.
The county now must rebid the project, Johnson said. That will probably take place within the next two weeks.
“No matter who pays for it, we’ve got to get the job done,” Johnson said. “We owe it (to the residents of Springlakes) to get it done.”
Johnson said completing the job is expected to cost $200,000 to $300,000.
Reluctant to subvert the bidding process, commissioners initially choose Harriss because his bid was about $200,000 cheaper than the next lowest bidder.
Though some county officials warned against giving the bid to Harriss, saying he received poor reviews from companies he previously worked with, Johnson said he was questioned closely at the time commissioners awarded him the low bid.
“You’ve got a low bidder who’s qualified with a bond,” he said. “What do you do?”
As for Harriss, “he won’t be doing any more work for us,” Johnson said.