The Wewahitchka city commissioners unanimously voted on Thursday to have the city’s attorney, Michelle Jordan, declare a default of contract over construction issues with the city’s new firehouse.
Wewahitchka and the firehouse’s general contractor, Winterfell Construction, have been in conflict over the quality and timeliness of the job for several months, with commissioners first raising issues in their November regular meeting. In December, Jordan was instructed to involve the project’s bonding company in case the city felt the need to take further action.
On Thursday, it was revealed that after contacting the building’s manufacturer, the manufacturer would not agree to issue a warranty for the firehouse due to the improper installation of the building’s roof.
“The only thing you can do at this point is to declare a default based on the communication of the building representative that the roof has to come off,” Jordan said to the commission.
“That is absolutely a default of the contract. It’s a default that can be cured under the contract. We have to put (the contractor) on written notice of the default and provide him with information he needs in order to remedy the default in a given time frame.”
While the bonding company will have the option to hire another contractor to complete the roof, Jordan said that her communication with the company made her believe this was unlikely.
“Once we declare the default, it’s up to the surety whether or not they allow him to complete the work or whether they bring in another contractor,” she said. “And I can tell you, realistically, they’re not going to bring in another contractor… There aren’t contractors out here that are available.”
Commissioners tasked Rachel Jackson, the city’s clerk, with applying for a time extension on the firehouse project, which was previously scheduled to be finished in late December.
The city’s original agreement with FEMA and the state required that the work be completed by April in order for the project to still be eligible for reimbursement. However, Jackson said that in previous correspondences, she was told the city could get an extension through September or October with the state before they would have to reapply for an extension with FEMA.
Tyler Marsh, an engineer acting as an impartial overseer of the project, did share that progress had been made with some of the commissioners’ previous concerns, presenting a new plan for the drains, which commissioners were able to look over.
Marsh also presented the city with several requests from the contractor for additional work days, which the commissioners were reluctant to approve. Instead, it was requested that the contractor appear at commission meetings to present change orders himself so that he could be present to explain his case.
An additional monthly meeting was added to make this easier. It will be held on the second Thursday of every month at 9 a.m. in the Wewahitchka Library’s conference room, unless the room has been reserved for an event.
An agenda for all city meetings, featuring the meeting’s location, is available in advance on Wewahitchka’s website.
Winterfell Construction has not yet responded to the Star’s request for comment. However, Tommy Hamm, the company’s owner, did tell our media partner WMBB last week that Winterfell “is working through potential design problems with the City and will strive to come to a resolution.”