Apr 21, 2016

Commission penalizes contractor for late work at fairgrounds

An electrical contractor is being penalized more than $6,000 for finishing work at the Park County Fairgrounds more than five months late.

Park County commissioners decided on Tuesday to withhold half of Action Electric’s final payment as a kind of punishment for not meeting their deadline on the job.

The $112,000 project brought electricity to the new exhibit hall and over to the west side of the fairgrounds near Sixth Street.

Action Electric closed its Powell office after problems that included late work at the fairgrounds.
Action Electric was supposed to finish the work by July 1, but didn’t actually complete it until mid-December.

Commissioners had considered keeping the entire $12,260.80 retainage, while Action Electric had suggested it would be fair for the county to keep 25 percent, or $3,065.20.

On a 3-1 vote, commissioners decided to keep 50 percent, or $6,130.40.

“I think all of us want to be done with it; get it behind us,” said Commission Chairman Tim French. “It’s unfortunate it turned out the way it did, but the work was finally done ... to our satisfaction.”

Commissioners said that in retrospect, the county should have done more to speed up the work.

“I think we learned a valuable lesson that, next time we approach a deadline, we send an official letter or whatever saying the deadline is X, and if you don’t meet the deadline, then you will start accumulating a fine,” French said

He added later that, “we said X was going to happen, and we allowed Y and Z to happen” when county staff told Action Electric it could have more time.

“Letting them go that long, some of the burden’s on both of us,” agreed Commissioner Loren Grosskopf, though he added it was “mostly” on the company.

Action Electric owner Max Griffin has said he wasn’t aware there were problems with the fairgrounds job until November, when county staff first called the company’s head office in Billings. (Staff had previously been dealing with the Powell office.)

Griffin immediately dispatched staff from Billings to finish the work. He told commissioners in February that the problems with the fairgrounds project were one reason he closed Action Electric’s office in Powell.

“Letting them go that long, some of the burden’s on both of us,” said Commissioner Loren Grosskopf.

Commissioner Lee Livingston cast the lone vote against paying the $6,130.40 to the company, saying he wanted to withhold the entire retainage.

Action Electric had narrowly been the low-bidder a year ago and Livingston said there may have been contractors who didn’t bid because of the original July 1 deadline.

“I understand where we’re at — where we probably should have given them earlier notice on the penalty, etc., etc. — but I think it's sending the wrong message out to some of the other contractors,” Livingston said.

Commissioner Joe Tilden said he’d also been leaning toward withholding all the money, but he suggested that Action Electric might actually be entitled to full payment.

“Technically speaking, we’re obligated to pay him (Griffin) all of the retainage, because he did finish the job,” Tilden said, adding, “if he balks at this, we could get in a big political mess and a big legal mess we just don’t need to be bothered with.”

In proposing the 50 percent payment, Grosskopf indicated the county is generally willing to give contractors some leeway.

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