SHERIDAN — Sheridan County School District 2 is in the midst of a legal dispute with a local contracting company that claims it was not paid nearly $90,000 for work done in 2010. The district has made a counter claim that the work was unsatisfactory, and wants $50,000 from Excel Construction to cover the costs of the repairs.
According to the civil complaint filed by legal representation for Excel, the company was the lowest bidder for the Sheridan Junior High School slope stabilization project. The work was completed in August 2011, almost a full year after starting the job, which included building a retaining wall system, fencing, railing, concrete work and land reclamation on property around the junior high school.
While the completion of the project was acknowledged the same month, the school district did not release the retainer funds that had been set aside for the project. While the reason for not paying the contractor in full were muddled for some time, it later came out that the district claimed the stipulations for final payment had not been met — there were deficiencies in the work.
According to the working contract, Excel provided a one-year warranty on any work done to the job. Eight days before that warranty expired, the district sent a letter to Excel requesting replacement and repairs to be done on the project. The defective construction identified by the school district included cracks and spalling in the concrete work and grass areas that needed to be reseeded.
The next month, Excel indicated a dispute existed between the district and the company regarding who would have to pay for repairs. Excel said the complaint regarding the job was vague and an excuse to avoid paying the retainer funds, which were, at that time, nearly a year overdue.
When the repairs remained unaddressed, the school district independently had the project’s subcontractor, Vista West Engineering, conduct repairs, thus racking up another $50,000 construction bill, which is the source of the district’s counterclaim against Excel. Of the counterclaim, $20,500 is attributed to project oversight from Vista West.
During the course of attempting to extract money back from Excel Construction to cover repair costs, SCSD2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty sent a memo to Wells Fargo Bank attempting to exercise control over a bank account owned solely by the construction company. The memo, given to the bank in December 2012, asked that $2,800 be released to the school district.
Complaint documents from Excel included in the suit say the memo to Wells Fargo was an instance where Dougherty, “Tried to force settlement that was not agreed to by Excel, attempting to illegally access funds from a bank account.”
No further court proceedings have been scheduled at this point.
At last week’s board meeting of the SCSD2 board of trustees, the group went into executive session to discuss the litigation. When the public portion of the meeting resumed, the board voted to approve a mutual agreement and final release between the district and the construction company, but no further details regarding the circumstances of the agreement were made available. Attempts to reach attorneys for both parties have been unsuccessful.
SCSD2 Human Resources Coordinator Cody Sinclair told The Sheridan Press via email the district staff is unable to discuss the lawsuit due to a non-disparagement clause in the settlement agreement.