Supervisors Learn Hard Lesson On Construction Business

The Harrison County Courthouse in Gulfport is a little too quiet for County Supervisors, but that should change in the coming weeks. Renovation work stopped more than a month ago after some subcontractors complained to the Board that they weren't being paid.

A half used paint can, a light fixture waiting to be hung, and insulation still in the wrapper are all signs that work at the county courthouse in Gulfport has come to a screeching halt.

"We had started to get calls from subcontractors that were working on our project upstairs that they hadn't been paid," Supervisor Larry Benefield said.

The county has paid the general contractor $94,264, but records show most subcontractors have received little or nothing from the contractor. Electricians, plumbers, and cabinet makers are looking at $62,151 in unpaid bills.

"We got with our architect and found out that our contractor had left the job and apparently had had some financial problems," Benefield said. "We didn't have a performance bond, so it left a situation in the county where, basically, we're going to have to take over the contract."

To finish the job, supervisors will do something the county has never done before - hire a construction manager. Benefield says the board has learned a hard lesson about doing business.

"We can't count on a consultant in all cases. Somebody has to look over their shoulder. Being the first time that this has ever happened to us, it does help us to know that we do have some responsibility to make sure that all our documents are in order. Not only do these performance bonds protect the county, but also protects the subs that work for the contractor.

WLOX News called the general contractor's office several times but were unable to reach the owners for comment. Meanwhile, Supervisor Larry Benefield says the work stoppage has put the renovation project three months behind schedule.