Commissioners receive invoices from canceled West End Plaza contracts

Published 12:10 am Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rowan County Commissioners last week learned the exact cost of a 3-2 vote in February to cancel all contracts at the former Salisbury Mall.

On Thursday, the company contracted to perform work at the former Salisbury Mall, LaFave’s Construction, sent county government invoices totaling $58,618.62 for work performed on contracts that were canceled in February. The canceled contracts were for upfitting at the former mall in spaces designated for Veteran Services and the Board of Elections to the former Salisbury Mall. Invoices state the county has 10 days to pay.

Commissioners on Monday will have a called meeting on Monday at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the LaFave invoices among other things, according to a meeting notice and County Attorney Jay Dees. All of the business items for the called meeting are scheduled to be discussed in a closed session. The meeting will be at the county’s administrative building at 130 West Innes Street.

During the Feburary meeting when contracts were canceled, Commissioner Craig Pierce loudly criticized the three newest commissioners for further delaying work at the former mall. Pierce and Commissioner Mike Caskey both voted against contract cancellation.

“All I can say is this is the best commission that the city council’s money can buy,” Pierce said during the meeting. “And you know what I mean.”

When asked about the invoices on Friday, Pierce pointed to the cost as an example of the negative affect the vote had on county government.

“All they had to do was table the contract, not cancel it,” Pierce said Friday.

Attached to the invoices from LaFave is an attorney’s letter that explains the work. The letters state the timeline for completion on a space designated for the Board of Elections was three months, ending Nov. 14, 2014 and two months ending Oct. 25, 2014 for Veterans Services.

“Due to the extremenly short timeframes for completion of both jobs, LaFave’s immediately after receipt of the contract began its work to perform the contract and in doing so spent time and money,” the letter states. “After many months of delays due to political changes on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners and inability to get the proper permits, you notified LaFave’s Construction by email dated February 17, 2015 that both contracts were terminated as of that date.”

A majority of the billed amount is for work done to move the Board of Elections at $35,600.03. The cost billed by LaFave’s for Veteran Services is $23.018.59.

The largest cost on both invoices is for the project manager’s time. With both projects combined, the bill for Lafave’s project manager was $5,100 — 68 hours at $75 per hour.

Other costs listed on the invoices are for the purchase of a trash hopper, building drawing reproduction, subcontractors and attorney fees.

Commissioner Judy Klusman, who voted to cancel the construction contracts, said she was aware the county would have to pay for work performed when the vote occurred. The cancellation, she said, was a way to simplify work at the former Salisbury Mall.

“We had four different contractors that were contracted to work out there and none of them knew what the other was doing,” Klusman said. “You try to make things as simple as possible. And, when someone else has signed those contracts, we still, as the next board, have the right to cancel them. It’s just as simple as that.”

The county hasn’t yet started soliciting new bids for work at the West End Plaza.

It’s unclear if any of the work done by LaFave will help reduce costs in the future. County Manager Aaron Church said contracted work up to the point when contracts were canceled consisted of preparation to start the building process.

Pierce said LaFave’s already completed work gives it an unfair advantage in the bidding process.

Commissioners in mid April are expected to receive the second part in an evaluation of its departmental space. It will be a master plan that makes suggestions about where county departments should be located.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.