Originally created 05/19/00

Company bills man for blocking state road project



A Madison County man who held up road widening construction on Georgia Highway 72 last week is now being asked to pay the price for his actions.

Colbert resident Harold Gaulding received a bill Tuesday from APAC Georgia Inc. for $1,521.97 for "cost associated with work stoppage May 10, 2000," according to the statement mailed to Mr. Gaulding. APAC is the Atlanta-based construction company hired by the state Department of Transportation to widen the road in Madison County.

Asked Wednesday if he intends to pay, Mr. Gaulding said, "When hell freezes over."

The bill has been turned over to his lawyer, Mr. Gaulding said.

Mr. Gaulding was charged with criminal trespass May 10 when he halted construction by parking his sport utility vehicle in the path of an APAC crew working between Colbert and Comer. He got out of the truck, stood in front of the work crew and refused to move.

Winston Whitey, superintendent of the APAC road crew, waited an hour before calling the Madison County Sheriff's Department.

Mr. Whitey would not comment on the incident, saying it is a Transportation Department problem, not an APAC problem.

Terri Pope, communications officer with the Transportation Department's district office in Gainesville, said the department is not responsible for the bill issued to Mr. Gaulding.

"This (bill) is issued strictly from APAC. They sent him a bill for whatever his protest cost them in wages and time," Ms. Pope said Wednesday.

Richard K. Fischer, APAC operations manager, said Wednesday afternoon that he is not authorized to talk with reporters. Mr. Fischer signed a cover letter that accompanied the bill.

A "summary calculation" at the bottom of the bill itemizes the costs. Those costs, according to the summary, are as follows:

Labor: $406.82

Equipment: $746.00

Tripod repair: $105.00

Overhead: $125.78

Profit: $138.37

Total: $1,521.97

In the letter, Mr. Fischer said APAC is submitting its "request for reimbursement of the cost incurred .ƒ.ƒ. as a result of (Mr. Gaulding's) actions that directly disrupted (APAC's) excavation and grading operations" May 10.

"Our road crew was prevented from performing productive work from the time you blocked our haul road on SR-72 until such time as the police removed you and your vehicle from our work zone," Mr. Fischer said in the letter.

"We expect prompt payment from you to reimburse us for the unnecessary financial loss you have caused us. Please be forewarned that we do not take kindly to your disruptive, illegal behavior and are prepared to take appropriate legal action against you to recover our damages for this incident as well as to protect us from any future damages by you."

APAC President Frank Nichols was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon. An APAC employee said Mr. Nichols will be out of the office until Monday.

Mr. Gaulding also was billed $105 for "repair to survey equipment" for a tripod he damaged April 19.

"That tripod was sitting in my front yard on my property so I moved it by kicking it onto their property," Mr. Gaulding said.

Part of the bill Mr. Gaulding received charges him for the hourly pay rate for 10 members of the road crew - including pay for Mr. Whitey - for two hours of work for each employee.

Ms. Pope said the department does not pay APAC on an hourly basis.

"We only pay them for the work they get done - if it takes them two months or two weeks to get something done, it doesn't matter. We only pay for the end result. The time which was lost as a result of Mr. Gaulding's actions cost APAC time which could have been put toward the project," she said.

Last week, Ms. Pope said the APAC crew lost 1 hour and 15 minutes of work time because of Mr. Gaulding's actions, and made up that time at the end of the day so that the project would not be delayed.

Mr. Gaulding, who owns about 40 acres along Highway 72 in the Colbert area, is upset with land condemnation proceedings initiated by the Transportation Department in connection with a number of tracts he owns along the route.

In Mr. Gaulding's view, the department did not pay him what he believed a half-mile stretch of his land was worth. He reached an $18,000 settlement on that tract and is now arguing with the state over its offer for a 1.25-acre lot.

Mr. Gaulding said the Transportation Department has offered him $525 for the tract, a price he claims is far below what other residents along the road are being paid for similar-size tracts.

Ms. Pope said the transportation department hired an independent appraiser to evaluate each parcel needed for the widening project.

A condemnation hearing on the land is scheduled for May 30 in Madison County Probate Court. But the Transportation Department, in effect, already owns the land, Ms. Pope said last week.

"Once we file condemnation, we know we're going to get the property. We get the title to that property immediately so that we can go ahead and get to work and the project is not held up," she said.

"Please be forewarned that we do not take kindly to your disruptive, illegal behavior and are prepared to take appropriate legal action . . ."- Richard K. Fischer, in a letter writtento Colbert resident Harold Gaulding