Feb 23, 2016

County may penalize electrical contractor for late fairgrounds work

Park County is mulling whether to penalize an electrical contractor for finishing a $112,000 project more than five months late.

The county could withhold some or all of the $12,260.80 it has not yet paid Action Electric for the work at the Park County Fairgrounds.

“It was a relatively small project and, to be honest with you, we’re really not happy with the way this played out,” Commission Chairman Tim French told Action Electric personnel at last week’s commission meeting.

Action Electric owner Max Griffin, of Billings, was apologetic.

“I think you have a legitimate complaint, and I think you’re absolutely right,” Griffin said.

Action Electric shuttered its Powell office after problems that included "some shoddy work" at the Park County Fairgrounds.
Under its contract with the county, the company was supposed to finish its work — which involved installing power to the new exhibit hall and bringing power to the west side of the grounds — by July 1.

However, the job still remained incomplete in November, and the county felt it was getting the run around from Action Electric’s workers in Powell. French told the fair board at that time that the county was “fed up” and considering imposing a $60,000 penalty.

The county then contacted Action Electric headquarters in Billings. Griffin said that was the first time he heard there was a real problem with the job, describing himself as “blindsided.” He said the company’s then-manager in Powell had assured him things were under control.

“This project is one of the reasons that shop (in Powell) is now closed,” Griffin said.

He said workers in the Billings office quickly traveled to the fairgrounds, found what he called “some shoddy work,” and set about fixing it.

“We didn’t take care of you. I mean, that’s the bottom line,” Griffin told commissioners. “But when we did find out about it in Billings, we tried to jump on it and make sure you had a good quality job.”

Action Electric employees substantially completed the work by mid-December, and the county agrees they ultimately did a quality job.

“You’ve done great work for us,” Commissioner Lee Livingston told Griffin.

However, the county must still decide whether to penalize the company for being so late.
Action Electric won the job in April with a last-minute low bid that edged the next-closet bidder by only about $2,800 (roughly 2.5 percent).

Commissioners wondered if other electrical shops would have submitted lower bids if not for the July 1 deadline — and the potential penalties for missing that deadline.

“When they find out that it really wasn’t done until February (when the final punchlist was completed) and we didn’t do anything about it, in theory, they’re going to say, ‘That’s not fair,’” said Commissioner Loren Grosskopf. “And especially in a small community ... that’s what we’re struggling with.”

Commissioners asked Griffin to submit a proposal on what he thinks should be done with the $12,260 retainage and he agreed to do that.

Griffin said the company would love to get full payment — “We’ve taken a butt-kicking down here pretty good (financially),” he said of this and other projects — but acknowledged “we have a very weak case.”

Commissioners will likely make a decision in April.

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