DHS contractor tells supervisors he was “thrown under the bus”

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The owner of Casablanca Construction Co. of Hattiesburg, Thomas Saucier, told supervisors on Monday that he will have the Department of Human Resources building at Millard completed in June, not Thanksgiving, as was reported at the last supervisors’ meeting.

Saucier told supervisors he feels like he was “thrown under the bus.”

Mike Beauchamp of JH&H Architects of Jackson told supervisors on April 26 that the company’s projected time schedule showed Thanksgiving. Saucier said that was not accurate, that it shows June. Beauchamp said on April 26 that calculations by the architectural firm shows August.

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However, the company was supposed to have the building completed in May.

Officials said that although the contractor is behind schedule, the quality of the construction has not been  compromised.

Saucier said that facts given to the supervisors misrepresented the position he was in with the $2.7 million project that will house, at a central location, the county welfare department, the Justice Court system and Veterans’ Administration offices when completed.

The building is being constructed on county-owned property near the county prison at Millard.

In addition, Saucier said that the project is 90 percent complete, not 65 percent, as reported by Beauchamp to supervisors at their last April 26 meeting.

Saucier also took exception to a comment by Supervisor J. Patrick Lee at the April 27 meeting. Saucier said that “events beyond the control of the contractor” occurred to delay the completion of the building, and that Casablanca had not underbid the project and was not “nickling-and-diming the subcontractors to death,” as Lee suggested.

At one point board attorney Joe Montgomery intervened and cautioned Saucier about cross-examining the architectural firm representatives about what they reported to supervisors.

“This is not an evidentiary hearing,” said Montgomery. “This is a meeting to determine what we are going to do about this matter.”

Saucier forcefully presented his side of the story, saying that his company had been criticized unfairly while not being present in the last supervisors’ meeting.

Saucier appeared before the board with his attorney, Frank Montague of Hattiesburg, and two company supervisors working on the project. Besides Beauchamp, also representing the architectural firm, was J. Carl Franco, a principal partner in the firm.

“I feel like we have been thrown under the bus,” said Saucier. “We have all the documentation to prove our points, and you can feel free to look at it.”

Montague told the board, “I am confident that this contractor will not default on this project. I have known him for 25 years, and he has never defaulted on a contract. If we had known you had questions, we would have been here long before. We do not require a subpoena, and we are pleased that no subpoenas were issued.

“Our clients are here voluntarily to state what has happened is caused by events beyond their control, and we are going around-the-clock to try and get this job timely finished,” Montague added.

“Evidence will show that they are almost 90 percent complete,” he added.

Saucier said the bidding on the project “was tight” and the company did not underbid the project.

In other matters, supervisors:

— Heard Smith say that officials plan, in the near future, to visit a methane project being constructed near Houston, Miss., where methane is piped out of a landfill to produce electricity. County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin, Jr., said that a similar project provides power to the Delisle Dupont plant from the Pine Grove landfill in Harrison County. Smith has proposed creating electricity from methane produced in the Central Landfill at Millard.

— Smith said that the county will begin spraying for mosquitoes in the rural areas as soon as the wind dies down. He said County Road Manager Mike Mitchell has two new spraying machines and two qualified employees to do the spraying.

— Lee, in response to a question from the audience, said the EPA is blocking a permit on the proposed Lake Troy development at Millard. He said that county officials are looking for ways to get the permit, but right now, the EPA is against issuing it to continue development of the proposed 900-acre lake development.

— Declared Monday, May 30, National Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis’ Birthday.

— Went into an executive session.

— Recessed to Monday, May 9.