Sod It: Palm Coast Manager Threatens to Fire Holland Park Contractor Over “Vacation” Delays
FlaglerLive | October 18, 2016
Holland Park is going from bane to worse. But a brighter end to the city’s most nightmarish renovation contract is approaching.
As if being six months behind schedule weren’t enough, the park’s reopening will be further delayed about four weeks because of the disruptions of Hurricane Matthew, which yanked city workers out of the park, where they’d been working alongside subcontractors, to tend to more pressing storm-recovery issues around town.
No one is about to blame the city for that–or for a further conflict between the city administration and the job’s contractor, Gainesville-based Tumbleson White Construction Inc.: when the contractor was contacted Monday about paying subcontractors, the city administration got an odd message back: we’re on vacation. That angered City Manager Jim Landon enough that this time he means it: he’s ready to fire the contractor.
“Two things happened yesterday,” Landon told the city council this morning. “One of them is I confirmed that we’re at a point where we really don’t need Tumbleson White now to get it done. Secondly, as the owner, you email them about the subs getting paid, it says oh, I’m on vacation. I don’t know about you, but that really irritated me. So I have sent out to them they either get their subs paid for the amount that we’ve paid them, by the end of this week, or else he’s going to have a job to do to fire them and go to the bond company and be done with them, and I think we’re at that point, just so you know.” (By “he,” Landon apparently meant city attorney Bill Reischmann.)
Tumbleson White’s Joe White had been emailed on Oct, 17 regarding the approval of an invoice for one of the subcontractors, records show. “I will be out of the office on Vacation through October 23, 2016,” came the apparently automatic reply. “If you need immediate help please contact our office,” and he gave the number in Gainesville.
Less than two hours later, Landon shot back: “You are going on vacation and not paying your subcontractors? This behavior is totally unacceptable. If 4C’s and all other subcontractors are not paid the full amount the City has paid TWC for their work, by the end of this week, we will take full compliance action against TWC as allow[ed] by law.”
At the end of August Landon had given the council the impression that he’d fired the contractor then, with the city taking over the work alongside subcontractors. His administration, through a spokesperson, later insisted that there’d been a miscommunication, that the contractor had not been fired, only put on notice that its services would be scaled back to allow for city workers to move into the park and hurry up the work, while the city ensured that subcontractors would get paid.
That much did take place, and work progressed. Then came the storm. “Our crews are not working out there,” Landon said today. “But we have done what we said we were going to do and started contracting directly with the subcontractors, and for the most part Tumbleson White has allowed us to do that, said great, go ahead and take it over.”
Firing the contractor is a complicated and messy process: the city has been holding that back as a last resort, doing everything short of it now that what was supposed to have been a $4.7 million project completed last spring may not be done before the end of the year. The delay has caused council members a lot of grief as residents have complained, and stained the city’s reputation for getting projects done on time.
That stain rankles Landon especially. “My new parks director,” he quipped this morning, referring to Alex Boyer, who became the parks director in mid-September, “almost lost his job, I think it was Monday, because he announced that everything was open and safe for the public to enter as far as our parks, except for Holland Park. He could have gone all day without bringing that one up, right?”
Hurricane Landon was less jovial, referring to Tumbleson: “To say you’re on vacation when you have subs trying to get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars I thought was a little over the top, when you have these kinds of problems,” he said, “so we will react accordingly. It is a total different scene out there though. We’ve got sod down, we’ve got landscaping going in, it is really coming along quite nicely ever since we basically took the project over.”