HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (7/23/13) – After much debate as to whether a portion of a bill from Associated Engineers was within or outside the scope of its original bid, Hopkins County Recreational Building and Grounds Committee chairman and Magistrate Chris Toney said he will recommend that Hopkins County Fiscal Court pay the bill during its next meeting Tuesday.
The committee met at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 23 to discuss the $56,000 bill after it was withheld from payment during the Tuesday, July 16 fiscal court meeting pending further evaluation. David Lamb from Associated Engineers and County Attorney Todd P'Pool were present to help answer questions for the committee.
The bill was questioned because a portion of it resulted from additional expenses after the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers determined that a wetland exists on land on which the county is planning to build a regional sports complex.
During the July 16 fiscal court meeting, Toney said that when he inquired about the bill, he was told the payment, "is in addition to payments already paid," to Associated Engineers, and that the firm, "conducted work that was outside the scope of the original bid."
A copy of the contract between Associated Engineers and the county has not been provided, Toney said in the July 16 meeting.
During the committee meeting July 23, Toney said Lamb's qualifications and time in the area infer that he should have been aware that the area was a wetland prior to the Corp of Engineer assessment.
"I feel like when the court hired you as an expert that they trusted you," said Toney. "I don't feel like the $18,000 (of the bill) was ever considered outside the scope of the project. I think someone messed up, and I don't believe the taxpayers should have to pay for it."
Lamb said he disagreed with Toney's assessment and that the additional expense was the result of an unforeseen variable associated with many projects.
"We were not aware that it was a jurisdictional wetland," said Lamb.
"There is a difference between land that is wet and a jurisdictional wetland."
Lamb said the site location, which is off Exit 40 of the Pennyrile Parkway and near the abandoned Hopkins County Schools Career and Technology Center, previously had been a water treatment structure, abandoned mine site and a reclaimed mine site.
Hopkins County Schools is engaged in litigation with Associated Engineers over subsidence issues where the tech center was halted near the same location.
Toney asked for P'Pool's opinion on whether the bill should be disputed or paid.
"I do think that the county received the value of that permit work," P'Pool said. "Under the legal theory of quantum meruit, which is Latin for as much as is deserved, it's a very common legal theory. In my experience, I would say that the Fiscal Court of Hopkins County is responsible for the permitting work because they received the benefit of that work."
P'Pool also said the bid sheet equated to contract material between the engineering firm and the county. The contract has not been fully performed, he said.
"The parties are free to negotiate the balance of this contract," P'Pool said.
Toney agreed the bill should be paid in full but that the question primarily arose from the statement that the work was done outside the scope of the bid.
"I don't know if this bill is within the scope or outside, in or out," said Toney, "but, this reiterates my reason for wanting a contract in place."
Magistrate Karol Welch, also on the committee, agreed that a contract should be drafted.
"I do believe it's in the best interest of the county to have a contract explaining everything," said Welch.
Toney asked P'Pool if he could have the contract drafted by Tuesday's fiscal court meeting.
P'Pool indicated that he will.
Rita Dukes Smith
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