While Belgrade officials sort through contract issues with a construction firm, subcontractors who worked on a water project last summer are still waiting to be paid and the wait has taken a financial toll on one firm in particular.
“It’s just a nightmare,” contractor Dave Hough said. “I’m destroyed.”
Hough is the owner of Big X and installed water mains last summer for a city water project on the north side of town. The city contracted with Bozeman-based W Construction to replace 19,400 linear feet of aging four-inch water mains with new, 10-inch water mains to improve service delivery, reduce water leakage and increase fire flows.
In a May 2 closed-door meeting, the Belgrade City Council voted to terminate its contract with W Construction “for cause.” City officials refused to explain the vote due to “legal concerns.”
Hough said the termination was “the best thing that’s happened” to him. Since the contract has been nixed, Hough said he is able to collect from the bond issued to W Construction. He is owed about $50,000.
But so far, Hough has not been able to collect and said he has been given “the runaround” by the bonding agency, Liberty Mutual. Efforts to reach Liberty Mutual agent Nina Durante were unsuccessful Thursday.
W Construction owner Jeremy Workman said Hough and those like him “haven’t been paid because we haven’t been paid.”
“There are several people that have not been paid,” he said. “They have a pay-when-paid provision in their contract. If we don’t get paid for our work, they don’t get paid for their work.”
Hough said that’s not the case. Belgrade City Manager Joe Menicucci said the city is withholding “some money” from the company, but all the receipts submitted to the city for work performed have been paid.
But while both sides legally duke it out, Hough said he is left holding the bag and is financially gasping for air.
“I’ve lost my house. I’ve lost my company,” he said.
His home is in foreclosure. He recently auctioned off most of his equipment.
“I’ve been burned from one end to the other,” he said. “I’ve lost two other pieces of property and any equipment of any value.”
Hough is now being turned into creditors for unpaid bills associated with the job. As with any construction work, he charged various items on accounts with several local businesses in the area. He can’t pay the bills until he gets paid.
“My credit is ruined,” he said. “All those people haven’t been paid.”
Hough held onto a dump truck in hopes of getting work, but due to his situation, he doubts he will be able to operate.
“Where do I buy fuel when I’ve already burned all of my fuel accounts?” he said. “This whole thing has made my life impossible.”
The city has been sympathetic to his plight, Hough said, and has helped by providing documentation, but there is little that can be done. Hough is a subcontractor for W Construction and not with the city.
Menicucci said he is familiar with Hough’s plight, but the city can’t remedy the problem.
“Anything we do deals with the general contractor,” he said.
The construction industry took a beating during the recession and work is still scarce. Hough said he is coming off a string of two other similar problems. But this last deal is the hand that sunk him.
“I’m just embarrassed to even walk around here anymore,” he said. “All these people who I’ve done business with for years, I’m on their list. I feel like the bad guy because I can’t pay my bills.”
At 65-years-old, Hough has been a utility contractor for 47 years.
“I just can’t pick up and start over again,” he said.