It’s been almost a year since Wewahitchka first began taking steps to sever ties with Winterfell Construction Inc., the former contractor for the city’s new firehouse whom the city terminated their contract with over concerns with the project’s construction quality.
According to City Attorney Michelle Jordan, it’s been too long to still be having back-and-forth interactions with the project’s bonding company.
So, at the city’s October 27 meeting, Jordan recommended that the city send the bonding company, name, a demand letter notifying them of their failure to uphold the bond for the firehouse.
“I think that we have reached an impasse with discussions with the bonding company, so I would like to ask for permission to send them a demand letter that they’re under a breach of their obligations under the bond,” Jordan asked the commissioners, “They haven’t made any concrete proposals as to how to fix this building or tear it down and replace it, and it’s been almost a year since we put them on notice, so it’s time.”
In July, the city commissioners voted to move forward with the construction of the firehouse instead of waiting for the resolution of pending litigation between them and Winterfell.
“We just don’t want to keep fighting fire about it. We want to get a cure,” the mayor said. “We need to come to a conclusion as to what’s going to happen because we’re thinking we need to finish that building.”
The city entertained moving forward with the project by providing the money to rebid and complete construction of the fire house up front, then recuperating the funds from the project’s bonding company afterwards. In the months that followed, the city’s engineer worked to have the project readied for rebid.
By sending the demand letter, officials said the city hopes to create more movement from the bond company on the matter. Should the company fail to meet the demands laid out in the letter to the city’s satisfaction, Wewahitchka will file suit against them.
“So we’ll be able to send that demand letter. I think they have 10 days to respond, and if they don’t, then I’ll proceed to file suit against them here in Gulf County,” said Jordan.
The city’s vote to send the letter was unanimous, with Commissioner Ralph Fisher absent from the meeting.
City to raise water, sewer rates
The water and sewer rates for the City of Wewahitchka will be higher in the new year, after they were raised at the city commissioners’ most recent meeting.
The board unanimously voted to approve the 10 percent increase in the water rate and the 15 percent increase in the sewer rate, effective January 1, 2023.
“This is the agreement to do the water and sewer rate increases that we agreed to do whenever Rural Water came and did their rate study,” said City Clerk Rachek Jackson at the meeting. “This is what we had discussed during the budget process.”
The new rates will be $17.97, up from $16.34, for water and $39, up from $34, for sewer.
Residents inquire about dirt road paving
Several of the residents who live off of Corn Griffin Road approached the podium to inquire with the commissioners about the possibility of having the road, which they say overflows with water when it rains, raised and paved.
There are about 22 residences off of the road, said Royce Watkins, who lives on the street. For them, he said, it is becoming more difficult to access town and work.
“It’s like a washboard,” he said. “When you drive down through there, it’ll rattle your teeth.”
City officials stated that the cost of repaving, which Jack Husband, the city’s engineer, estimated could cost around $250,000, was not within the city’s budget, though they did agree to work on having the road raised to address the worsening flooding problems.