During their Oct. 24 workshop, the Hernando County School Board was presented with a recommendation by attorney David Sutton of Phelps Dunbar LLP to terminate the district’s contract with T&G Construction. “It’s been a lack of follow-through from this particular company time and time and time again,” said Superintendent of Schools John Stratton.
The district previously contracted with T&G to add twelve new classrooms to Winding Waters K-8 at a cost of just under $4 million. T&G broke ground on the project in March 2022 but quickly fell behind, frequently not showing up for work. By May 2023, the contractor was about ten months behind in the project. Through the district’s attorneys, a memorandum of understanding was executed, with T&G laying out a timeline to finish construction and correct deficiencies. In that memorandum, the project was to have been completed by July 14, 2023. The construction firm did not meet the deadline but did complete some of the work. The district received a temporary certificate of occupancy for the new facility, but several construction deficiencies remained uncorrected, such as adequate drainage in the bathrooms and the sealing of floors. According to attorneys, T&G has, on a number of occasions since July 14th, failed to return and correct deficiencies. The company finally returned on the weekend of Oct. 8–9 to finish the floors, but still didn’t seal them. “On the rare occasions that they have been out, their work has still been deficient,” said Sutton. Sutton said that the firm was at the point where they were ready to request the board terminate T&G’s contract and hire another contractor to finish the project and repair deficiencies.
Sutton cautioned the board that T&G’s position is that they have completed the contract and there are no deficiencies. In a recent development, T&G requested through their attorneys that they be allowed to conduct a final walkthrough to observe the deficiencies. Sutton recommended against it, saying, “We have had more walk-throughs with T&G than I care to count.”
Sutton told the board they have the option of allowing T&G to come out and “see what they have to say,” but he did not believe T&G had done the work necessary to be awarded payment. Sutton said he believed terminating the contract was the best course for the district to take but advised the board terminating the contract would make the likelihood of a lawsuit “rather high” as the district still potentially owes T&G $750,000.
Board member Mark Johnson questioned how many experts have reviewed the deficiencies on the district’s behalf. Sutton said experts have inspected and documented HVAC deficiencies, but no experts have examined the other issues. Sutton said there were approximately 120 deficiencies on the list. According to Sutton, “All of our boots on the ground, including Garrett Nagle and Brian Reagan …as is the architect of record, that the deficiencies exist.” Sutton said the board had the option to file a separate suit against T&G for monetary damages caused by the delays in construction, such as the mobile units needed because construction was not completed on time.
Susan Duval said she was in favor of terminating the contract, stating, “This whole thing has been a nightmare since day one.” Duval also said she strongly supported a lawsuit against T&G for damages.
All of the remaining board members seemed to strongly agree with terminating the contract. During a subsequent vote during the regular school board meeting, the board voted 5-0 to terminate the contract. During the regular meeting, board member Mark Johnson said he wanted to make sure the public was aware that even though it had taken a lot of time, the board was aware of the problem with T&G and was now acting on it.