The five-month delay in opening a North Augusta splash pad could cost a contractor thousands of dollars, contrary to prior opinion.
City officials initially said a contract with Ammar Construction contained no “liquidated damages” clause, which penalizes a contractor for each day a project’s completion is overdue.
But a copy of the contract obtained by The Augusta Chronicle shows that there is such a clause, which penalizes the contractor $200 for each calendar day the project is in default.
Attorney Kelly Zier, who represents North Augusta, wrote in an e-mail Monday that information was not included in the initial documentation provided for his review.
“I am now considering the enforceability of liquidated damages under the circumstances of the overall contract, delays, deficiencies, etc.,” Zier wrote.
Tony Ammar, the contractor, is likely to dispute that the splash pad’s delayed opening was his fault, however, as the fountain at Summerfield Park on Old Edgefield Road was ready for play in mid-April.
The delay resulted from months of waiting for a complete operating permit and schematics to be submitted to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The contract states that was the contractor’s responsibility, but Ammar contends that it was the engineer’s duty.
The city eventually submitted the permit Aug. 23, and the splash pad was opened the next day.
Rumblings of legal action started three weeks earlier, with a letter dated Aug. 4 from Zier to Ammar, stating: “We are now in excess of 120 days beyond (the completion date) and the project is still not complete.”
Zier continues: “Obviously a project of this type is very time sensitive and the loss of use for the months of April, May, June, July and now August is substantial. Not only is the City’s position that some immediate action is necessary … but that the City is now entitled to damages as a result of the substantial loss of use.”
Ammar replies with a substantially longer letter that paints himself as a “small minority business working hard to survive in this strained economy.”
Ammar details how he completed the project on time and places the blame for the delays on the city and the engineer.
“Our company strives to provide quality work with professional service. Our goal is the goal of our clients but we cannot be intimidated by newspaper articles or threatening letters when our intention all along is to complete the project properly and in a timely manner,” Ammar writes.
Ammar has expressed confidence that he would win a lawsuit. His attorney, John Garcia, said Tuesday he is still getting familiar with the case and hadn’t heard directly from North Augusta.
Ammar also states that the city still owes him $11,525, which e-mails show was initially withheld in March because of dissatisfaction with how the concrete was poured.
Bob Brooks, the director of North Augusta Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services, confirmed this week that the balance is still outstanding on Ammar’s $124,700 bid.
If Ammar’s full amount is paid, combined with the engineer’s fee of $13,760, the splash pad will have cost $138,460. The next legal step concerning the splash pad will be decided in an executive session at a future City Council meeting, Brooks said.