Citing Long Delays, City Boots Restroom Contractor

Photo by Zane Hill / OUTLOOK
The incomplete restroom at Lacy Park remains fenced off after the City Council terminated its construction contract last week. Construction is expected to continue with a new contractor nearly nine months past its original completion date.

A surety company is expected to deliver plans to complete Lacy Park’s new restroom facility to the city by the end of January, about nine months after the original contractor was expected to have finished the job.
The city also plans to fight to recover liquidated damages and other costs it attributes to the lag in progress on the project, the contract for which was awarded in November 2018; work was expected to have been completed last April. The City Council last week voted unanimously to terminate the contract, tasking the contractor’s bonding firm, Argonaut Insurance Co., with formulating a plan to complete the restroom and bringing in a new contractor for the job.
City Parks and Public Works Director Michael Throne claimed last week that the original contractor, Long Beach-based Meyers Construction Co., is in violation of at least four of the six listed grounds for contract termination. The alleged shortcomings include failure to diligently prosecute work to completion; disregard of written instructions from the city addressing site material storage, daily reports, site safety and workmanship; failure to adhere to the work schedule; and failure to respond to the city’s formal notices to cure.
Of the $337,400 contract, the city has paid Meyers Construction $145,673, leaving a remaining project balance of $191,727. However, Throne’s department has assessed $250 per calendar day beyond the scheduled completion date in liquidated damages, and as of Jan. 8, claims the city is owed back $63,250 from the contractor. Additionally, the city will demand restitution for the $935-a-month rental of portable toilets for the period beyond the expected completion date.
Throne indicated to the city he plans to also seek to recoup costs associated with the work his department needed to do to prepare the termination and to secure the worksite while Argonaut hammers out a plan.
The construction company’s owner, Stephen Meyers, did not reply to an email asking for comment.
Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey expressed frustration that it took the city more than half a year to reach this point with the contractor, but Throne — citing the city’s legal counsel — explained that time and documentation were required to make the city’s case legally defensible.
“You have to be very diligent in your record keeping,” he said. “You have to give them every single chance to fail because they can always come back through their surety or through their legal representation and say, ‘You’re terminating us prematurely. You need to give us enough chances.’ So, as painful as that is, we needed to give them enough chances and end up with their own self-imposed deadlines to either succeed or fail at so we could get here and be very confident that we could move on with the bonding company.”
A memorandum from City Manager Marcella Marlowe dated Dec. 30 explored additional details of the allegations. According to the document, the contractor missed agreed-upon completion dates in October and December and failed throughout much of the project to have a contractually required minimum of five workers on site. (Through mid-October, four workers were the maximum ever noted to be on site, the memo said.) The memo alleged that some workmanship was so poor that the city’s building inspector told the contractor to remove a large amount of masonry wall. The contractor failed to provide daily work reports, documentation proving the payment of prevailing wages to employees and the correct mailing address for the company, the memo also claimed.
The council meeting’s agenda report included a swath of memorandums and documents detailing the number of times Throne had reached out to Meyers Construction regarding the delays and also departmental evaluations of the work being done. Councilwoman Susan Jakubowski lauded this prepared record.
“I’m quite upset with this company that they couldn’t have communicated with you earlier and said, ‘This is over our head. We need to move on,’” she added. “That would have been the fair thing for them to do.”
Throne estimated that work could resume as soon as February and that there were around 90 calendar days of work left to be completed.

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