Originally created 08/15/98

Club building contractor dismissed



The Augusta Housing Authority fired the contractor building the Boys and Girls Club on 15th Avenue because the project is months behind schedule, and workers and suppliers had not been paid, Housing Authority officials said.

Authority members unanimously agreed to terminate the contract with Awesome Pyramid Contractors Inc., effective at 5 p.m. Friday, said Richard Arfman, director of planning and development for the authority.

The $348,000 project is a joint venture between the Housing Authority and the Boys and Girls Club to provide a bigger and better facility for the children in and around the Dogwood Terrace apartment complex.

It was supposed to be finished in May and open for those children this summer but is only about half done.

The authority has notified the contractor's bonding company, Western Surety Co. of Houston, and will look to it to finish the building and pay any unpaid workers and vendors, Mr. Arfman said.

On Thursday, some Awesome Pyramid workers had not been paid in six weeks, authority officials said.

Housing Authority officials recognized problems with the project early this year, but tried to work with Awesome Pyramid owners, James Sams and Arthur Bush, Housing Authority officials said.

"We tried to give them time to straighten out, but it just wasn't right," said Housing Authority Chairman Sidney Seidenberg.

Some of the work had to be torn out and redone, and it became apparent early on the May construction deadline would not be met. The deadline was extended until June 9.

On July 2, Housing Authority Director Jacob L. Oglesby wrote Mr. Sams, expressing extreme concern over the project's progress.

"The revised completion date of June 9, 1998, was not met and your projected completion date of July 31, 1998 is unrealistic," Mr. Oglesby's letter said. "Actual job progress is unsatisfactory and continues to fall further behind."

Mr. Oglesby asked for a new construction schedule and warned noncompliance would be grounds for termination.

"Our main problem was they were so behind schedule," said Mr. Seidenberg. "As an example, the Augusta Day Care on Walton Way in front of the Peabody Apartments across from University Hospital. Both projects were started at the same time, and you see the child center is completed, and it's a beautiful building, so well constructed.

"But if you go over and look at the Boys Club at Dogwood Terrace, it's a lot different. They're so far behind schedule."

The telephone at Awesome Pyramid Contractors on 15th Avenue has been disconnected.

Awesome Pyramid was also the contractor for renovations at Shiloh Community Center on 15th Street.

The city's probe last year into the renovations financed with sales tax money found irregularities, overcharges, substandard work and a possible conflict of interest.

Mr. Sams charged the city at least $15,000 more for bricks than he should have, city facilities director Richard Acree stated in a report on the Shiloh project.

The city had advanced the center $150,000 of the $500,000 in penny tax money allocated for renovations to the center.

Mr. Sams also removed bricks from the building's rear wall to use on the front and did not replace them, according to Shiloh Center's founder and executive director Ruth Crawford.

The north side of the building is still uncovered.

Mrs. Crawford said Awesome Pyramid was supposed to complete the renovations in 90 days but took a year.

Mrs. Crawford signed a note to Mr. Sams for the costs of some windows he installed, thinking it would be paid by the city with sales tax money, she said.

When the city refused to approve the change order, Mrs. Crawford found Mr. Sams looking to her to pay the $14,233 bill.

"I didn't have a leg to stand on," the 80-year-old Mrs. Crawford said Friday. "He had overcharged us, but we couldn't get out of it. He's a smart cookie."

The city settled with Mr. Sams, Mrs. Crawford said.

"The commissioners told him what they would pay, and he could accept that," she said. "I think it was $9,000. We just made a settlement and put him out of the picture. We will get somebody else to do the job."

Meanwhile, the Boys and Girls Club construction will proceed after a short delay, Mr. Arfman said.

"An optimistic thing would be to say it would be done by Thanksgiving," he said. "Not being involved in too many jobs that have been terminated and taken over by bonding companies. Sometimes they're very quick to react. Sometimes a little bit slow to react. So there's a lot of unknowns. Hopefully by Thanksgiving. No later than Christmas."