Council debates how much is due on amphitheater

Published 11:16 pm Monday, November 9, 2015

How much the city of Selma still owes a local company — if anything — on the newly constructed Selma amphitheater was debated at Monday night’s city council work session.

The general contractor for the amphitheater was Cooper Brothers Construction Company, and Tom Bolton, president of Cooper Brothers, said the company is owed more than $41,600 and that the amount is more than 90 days past due.

Some members of the city council questioned if they owe anything after what they said were penalties for the project being late.

“Essentially, we have done everything you asked of us, and we would like to be paid,” said Bolton, addressing council members.

He said a punch list provided to him has been completed and that he needs payment to be able to pay subcontractors who helped with the project.

The amount Bolton said he is due doesn’t include any penalties for a project that was originally scheduled to be finished Feb. 14. The city’s contract with Cooper Brothers calls for a $1,000 per day late penalty.

The council had informally discussed, but never voted on, a $10,000 late fee, but Bolton said Selma Mayor George Evans told him all fees would be waived if he could help provide a contractor to tear down a nearby dilapidated building — a claim Evans disputes.

“You can believe him [Evans], you can believe me. If you want to take $10,000 off my bill, take $10,000 off my bill, but pay my bill so I can pay my subs,” Bolton said.

Evans said he never made that deal and doesn’t have the authority to propose anything like that.

“I’m disappointed that he would come and make that type of accusation. That is not right. I want the record to be clear. I never agreed to that. I never cut a deal with Mr. Bolton to do any tearing down,” Evans said.

The debate over the $10,000 fine may be the tip of the iceberg, considering some council members feel Bolton isn’t owed anything, or may actually owe the city money. Bolton presented a letter dated Oct. 7 from the city of Selma’s architect that said the project was 12 days late, but Councilwoman Angela Benjamin contends it was more like months.

“That’s a lie. We know it’s a whole lot more than 12 days. I want to see what sky he pulled 12 days out of. We know it’s been about five months,” Benjamin said. “We know we have a binding contract. We don’t owe [Cooper Brothers] anything.”

Other council members said the city of Selma has to shoulder some blame for project delays. A lot of that blame fell at the feet of former city of Selma planning and development head James Benderson, who oversaw the project.

“There have been so many changes. We have a change of leadership in planning and development, and I use the term ‘leadership’ loosely,” said Councilwoman Susan Keith. “We have people who live and work in this town who need to be paid. We owe the money. If we are going to spilt hairs … I don’t see any good that will come from that.”

Councilman Michael Johnson agreed that the city shares blame for how long the project took to finish.

“I feel like we did not play our part right either. We should have been on top of it,” Johnson said. “And to now throw the entire ball to him…”

Benjamin said whatever delays were caused by the city were overshadowed by the contractor.

“Subtract what you think we owe them because of Mr. James Benderson being on the project, and you will still come out with them owing us,” Benjamin said.

Bolton emphasized the city’s own architect said the project was 12 days late and that the city was responsible for some of the project’s delays.

“That doesn’t count the time we got no answers from the city planning and development office relative to decisions that needed to be made,” Bolton said.

The council made no decision on the amount owed, or not owed, Cooper Brothers, but will likely discuss the matter during tonight’s scheduled city council meeting.