Wewahitchka terminates contract with firehouse builder

Wewahitchka city commissioners unanimously voted Thursday evening to terminate their contract with Winterfell Construction, the contractor responsible for building the city’s new firehouse.

On Jan. 14, City Attorney, Michelle Jordan sent a letter to the bonding company overseeing the project declaring the contract in default, citing the city’s concerns about the quality of the building’s concrete slab and the installation of the roofing and siding.

The contractor was given 10 days’ notice to address the concerns before the city would be allowed to terminate the contract.

Tommy Hamm, Winterfell Construction’s owner, was present at the city’s Jan. 27 meeting, where he disputed the city’s concerns about the roof and slab and claimed that city processes significantly slowed the pace of construction.

After several minutes of tense discussion, Wewa Mayor Phil Gaskins asked Jordan whether the city was OK to declare the contract terminated.

Jordan told the commission that the lawyer representing Winterfell Construction had communicated in an earlier correspondence that the company intended to sue the city if the contract was terminated.

“Oh, we’re going to be sued?” Gaskins asked.

“I will sue for breach,” Hamm responded.

“Well, we have an attorney, and insurance too,” Gaskins said.

Then he asked for a motion to terminate the contract.

Jordan conveyed that the bonding company had expressed that finding a new contractor to complete the work could be time-consuming.

Wewahitchka City Clerk Rachel Jackson said she had completed the paperwork to apply for an 18-month time extension on the project, which she said she would file Friday morning.

In the official letter of termination sent by Jordan to Winterfell on Friday morning, the attorney stated that “tNo employees of Winterfell Construction, Inc. should enter the worksite without express permission from the City of Wewahitchka.”

It also said that “the City of Wewahitchka intends to pursue all legal rights and remedies against Winterfell Construction, Inc. for its breach of the contract.”

Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison said on Friday afternoon that he was unaware of any disputes over property left at the site.

This report has been updated from an earlier version to include excerpts from the city’s letter of termination.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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