Three construction projects on hold at Fort Mill schools after contractor stops paying workers

Contractor stops paying workers; 3 projects wait

scetrone@heraldonline.comOctober 12, 2012 

— Three Fort Mill school construction projects worth more than $7 million have been delayed after the company hired to manage the work stopped paying contractors, district officials say.

The school district hired Indian Land general contracting firm Farley Associates last year to manage three projects:

• Building a new multipurpose room at Nation Ford High School and adding erosion control measures to the property ($1,141,000)

• Building a new shop for the transportation and facilities maintenance departments ($3,976,000)

• Renovating and upgrading the office building where the district’s central office operations moved ($2,654,000)

The projects were advertised separately. In each case, Farley offered to do the work for a lower cost than seven or eight competing firms, Fort Mill schools assistant superintendent Tommy Schmolze said.

State law requires school districts to hold a bidding process and award contracts to firms that can meet their needs for the best price.

“There was nothing that showed there was a problem with their company,” school board Chairman Patrick White said.

Farley has been involved in several area construction projects, including York Technical College’s Chester Center, Winthrop University’s track and soccer complex and Rawlinson Road Middle School.

The company hired subcontractors for Fort Mill schools and work began last year.

Subcontractors stopped work in September because Farley had not paid them, Fort Mill school officials said.

It’s not clear why Farley stopped paying workers.

Company president Trey Farley couldn’t be reached for comment.

At least one other government agency has had a similar issue.

City leaders in Winston-Salem, N.C., fired Farley Associates last month because the company had not paid subcontractors for work on a $2.2 million fire station, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

Fort Mill district officials are most concerned about finishing Nation Ford High’s multipurpose room, Schmolze said.

“The parents are driving by going, ‘Is anybody going to work on this?’ ” he said. “That’s an eyesore. We have plans for that campus for beautification. This has hindered that.”

Work could soon begin again.

Hartford Insurance, which the district hired to insure the projects, has evaluated the work and hired a new firm to manage it. District leaders expect Hartford to set a date soon for construction to restart.

Although Hartford has started to pay some subcontractors for work they already finished, school officials say the insurance company hasn’t been moving fast enough.

“The district is frustrated with the process that delays payments to vendors who have completed their work,” Superintendent Chuck Epps said. “Any significant delay hurts small businesses who depend on timely cash flows in order to remain solvent.”

Hartford Insurance officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect date for when work stopped on Fort Mill school district construction)

Shawn Cetrone 803-329-4072

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