WCEDA discusses Woodlawn contractor extension and Amtrak, HB413 letters of support

WCEDA discusses Woodlawn contractor extension and letters of support

By RUBY KEARCE 

THE Walton County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) board of Directors met for its monthly meeting on Thursday, March 2. The contractor for Woodlawn Commerce Park Extension, L&K Contracting Co, Inc., has asked the board for a 15-day contract extension in order to finish the job, for a total of 100 days of extensions. The L&K Contracting Co. Inc.’s justification for the request was three days of rain and scheduling issues for the truck to haul base and asphalt to the project. 

Executive Director Uriah Matthews provided more context to this situation. Matthews witnessed an uptick in activity in the area giving him hope that the company will be finished in a timely manner, but also feels another extension will be asked for. Even though the contractor is working past the contract date, the company can not be paid unless the board allows for the extension. Matthews said, “My candid opinion is there will be another request and that’s where we’re at. So I think the idea would be, how much pressure do we want to apply from a legal standpoint?”

Attorney Clay Adkinson gave his candid opinion of the contractor possibly walking away at some point. Adkinson went on to ask how much money the company is currently seeking, with Matthews stating that it is a combined $250,000, from both the WCEDA and Walton County. Matthews added that the engineer would need to sign off on the check, and has informed Matthews that he will not be signing. 

District One Commissioner William “Boots” McCormick said, “If this board was to grant extension, I will say this for the record, I will not vote for another one after this one.”  The question  remains that if the extension is not granted, where does that leave WCEDA and Walton County? With the fact that the project is already close to completion, mixed with Triumph fund requirements, it could be difficult to find a contracting company that will be willing to take on the project. This route could also add months to the project. 

Matthews’ recommendation to the board is to allow for the extension and pay close attention to the contractor’s activities over the next two weeks. When discussing liquidated damages Matthews said “liquidated damages is essentially the incentive to say you’re getting less money at the end of this and you should finish as fast as possible, so that you don’t get your total amount eaten into as much as possible.” 

From a legal standpoint, Adkinson said, “We are entitled per the contract to withhold and collect $1,694 right now, tomorrow will be twice that.” Adkinson went on to say “If you were to do it for 15 days that is a total of $25,410 which is about a fifth of what they want to get paid.”  

The recommendation from Adkinson was to either grant an extension for 30 days rather than the 15, or inform the contractor that the board will be withholding the liquidated damages that are due for the 15 days. 

Withholding liquidated damages would not be a granted change order extension; rather, it would be the board approving of payment with the deduction of the liquidated damages. If the project gets completed in five days then the amount of money owed for the other 10 will be awarded back to the contractor. 

The question was raised whether, if the contractor was to walk away, would WCEDA have the legal footing to sue for the uncompleted project. Adkinson said “Yeah, you’re gonna have to sue them. Everybody is going to be suing everybody at that point.”  Adkinson added that state money is involved and the state would be looking to WCEDA to sue. 

After further discussion, board member Matthew Avery moved forward with a motion, saying: “I don’t like it but I’m willing to do another 30 days.” Going on to add that the board will be pursuing liquidated damages after this extension, as well as authorizing the payment upon engineer sign off. The motion was seconded and passed with no further discussion. 

In other news the board approved of two letters of support. One of the letters of support was for the FL HB 413  that relates to financial assistance for rural areas of opportunity by Rep. Shane Abbott. This could allow for rural areas like Walton County to pursue critical infrastructure, job development, and workforce education opportunities. The other letter was for the Amtrak Corridor Identification Program. This letter is asking the administration and FDOT to officially apply for the “Corridor Identification Program” for federal funding to study the practicality of Amtrak Expansion in our state before the deadline of March 20, 2023. This would not commit Florida to build a new passenger rail service, but will inform Florida policymakers to ensure they make an informed decision, without a cost to the taxpayers.