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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Who's going to pay the utility bills?

Monday, February 13, 2006

While both sides agree it's a matter that can be easily resolved, a dispute over utility costs incurred during the construction of the new Clay County Jail has rankled at least a few county officials.

The jail racked up about $16,000 in utility costs from August through December 30, when the Clay County Board of Commissioners signed a certificate of substantial completion on the facility. Commissioner David Parr said he interprets the county's contract with Hannig Construction, the principal contractor on the jail project, to include utility costs up to the completion date. Officials at Hannig, citing a delay in construction related to the facility's air-evac system and the county's use of the building during construction, have offered to pay $4,300 toward the $16,000 utility bill.

Clay County Auditor Joe Dierdorf, for one, has taken issue with Hannig's assessment of the situation.

"There's no way the county should pay $12,000 to $13,000 in utilities while they're building the (jail). It's ridiculous," he said.

"It plainly states in our contract with them that they would be paying until Dec. 30," Parr pointed out.

When the commissioners' signed off on a final certificate of substantial completion Dec. 30, ownership of the building shifted from Hannig to the county. But the county began using the facility on a limited basis months before.

The commissioners signed an earlier certificate of substantial completion Oct. 25, at which time the building was two-thirds complete, according to Troy Biddle, Hannig's Vice President of Operations. Andrews confirmed Biddle's assertion and indicated his willingness to consider a compromise on the utility costs.

"We think more discussion needs to take place," said Commissioner Daryl Andrews, who suggested the county could pay two-thirds of utility bills incurred after Oct. 25.

The county may have the upper hand in the negotiations, having withheld the final $250,000 of the contract with Hannig as a retaining fee. Though Parr believes the "minor issue" of utility bills will be easily resolved, he said the retaining fee could function as an insurance policy for the county.

"If we have any problem with (what they offer), we'll release the difference (between the $250,000 retaining fee and the amount Hannig pays toward the utilities)," he said.

Despite the contention, Biddle is confident Hannig and the county will arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

"We've come this far on an $11 million job with no major issues," he said. "I can't imagine something this small creating a problem."

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