published Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Jasper board withholds contractor's payment

JASPER, Tenn. — City leaders are holding a contractor responsible for potential damage to a $25,000 electrical panel from a recent heavy rainstorm.

At its December meeting, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to withhold $10,000 from Angel Construction in Pikeville, Tenn., unless the city gets a five-year extended warranty on the product.

The money would cover the estimated cost to replace components in the electrical box and will be held in escrow until the requested warranty expires.

"If we don't have anything happen to [the panel that's moisture-related] and don't have to replace or repair it, then we'll give [the contractor] his money back," Mayor Paul Evans said.

City administrators said they want the "extended agreement" from either Angel Construction or its subcontractors on the job, DC Electrical & Construction in Pikeville and Walter A. Wood Supply Co. Inc. in Chattanooga.

City Attorney Mark Raines said the state electrical inspector saw employees from DC Electrical working on the large panel recently when a heavy rainfall began.

"The workers all went in and got dry, and they left the panel open," he said. "All they had to do was either close it up, put a tarp over it or something. Instead of doing that, they went and sat in the truck cab for however long it rained. The panel got soaked, and they stayed dry."

The electrical inspector "sat there and watched the whole thing," he said, and provided city officials with photos of standing water inside the panel.

Evans said that water could cause damage to the panel's components years later.

Roy Joe Angel, owner of Angel Construction, said one of his employees was at the site whenever work was being done by the subcontractor and that a five-year warranty was "asking too much."

"They tried to [close the panel], but the door wouldn't shut," he said. "They had some issue with shutting the door. I'm not saying that's [Jasper's] problem. I'm just saying that's what happened."

Evans said the city, "knowing there could be water damage," will refuse to acknowledge the project is complete.

"If somebody hadn't neglected the panel, left it open, and let it get wet like that, we wouldn't be asking for this [guarantee]," he said. "Under normal circumstances, we would approve this. No problem."

Angel said he can't see how anybody could guarantee a product like the electrical panel for five years.

"Three years might be reasonable, but five?" he said. "Nobody is going to give you five years."

So far, Angel is right; he has not been able to obtain the requested guarantee from either of the subcontractors.

He said DC Electrical should provide the letter because "they were the ones that left it open."

Raines said any negligence on that particular job is Angel's responsibility.

"He's the one contracted for the job, and he is the one responsible for it," he said.

"Somebody is going to be held responsible, and it's not going to be the town of Jasper," Evans said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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