County settles lawsuit
Former contractor has to reimburse county $600,000
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
County commissioners and Ricks Contractors, Inc., ended a lawsuit last week over the Morgan County courthouse renovations that have been going on for nearly four years. Under the terms of the mediated settlement, the county will receive $600,000 from Ricks and four sub-contractors involved in the approximately $3.3 million renovations that began in 2003.
Commissioner Ellen Warren expressed relief that the mediation had been successful and the lawsuits were over.
“It’s been a way of life for four years,” said Warren, in an interview on Monday. “We have been working on this, and dealing with it, and to finally have it over with…is wonderful,” she said.
The renovation of the Morgan County courthouse began in the fall of 2003, but by October of 2004 the county was so displeased with the results of the ongoing project that they ordered the contractor out of the courthouse.
The original architects left the project and, in the spring of 2005, county commissioners officially fired Ricks, per their contract, and hired a new architect and contractor to complete the renovation, according to published reports and county sources. The county ultimately filed suit against the bonded contractor to recover monies for work not completed to specification.
The first task of the new architect, Precision Planning, was to document the items in the courthouse that remained incomplete under the original contract.
This list of items formed the basis of the $600,000 (including legal fees) that the county eventually collected from the contractor after mediation.
“Obviously, we’re pleased,” said County Attorney Christian Henry, contacted Tuesday regarding the suit.
“Had we gone to trial, we might have gotten a little more [money]—or we might have gotten less. Court is so costly, in money and in time—this seemed the best result for the county,” said Henry.
“It is a relief to have the taxpayers’ money recovered,” said Warren.
In an e-mail statement, Wilson DuBose, attorney for Ricks Contractors, said “My clients - Ricks Contractors, Inc. and the surety under the performance bond on the project - are pleased that the litigation has been resolved. Although each of the seven parties to the lawsuit had strong and conflicting opinions regarding the issues involved in the litigation, it came down to a business decision at the end of the day. Mediation is not about deciding a winner and a loser; it is all about finding a resolution that each party to the dispute can live with in order to avoid the expense and risk of continuing with the lawsuit. The parties and mediator all worked hard to achieve such a resolution in this case.” DuBose also stated that damages from the mediation would be parceled out among insurers and three other subcontractors on the job.