The contractor Travis Chatman stopped paying the subcontractors on the Indian Trail project, with work still to be completed. The company was bonded, so the city is handling the problem now. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
After months of delays and reports of unpaid workers, Johnson City turned to a contractor’s insurance company to finish the $1.4 million expansion of Indian Trail Intermediate School.
“We’ve spent more time on this one than our other projects combined,” city construction agent Tommy Burleson said Monday of the capital project to add eight classrooms to the North Johnson City school.
Dave Chupa, Johnson City Schools’ supervisor of instruction and facilities, said the entire project was supposed to be completed before the start of the school year in August, but the district is still waiting for the correct windows and phones to be installed in the classrooms less than three months before the year’s end.
Chupa said the windows were mismeasured when they were first fabricated and installed, leaving a 4 to 6 inch gap between the bottom of the window and the edge of a row of exterior accent brick and giving the outward appearance that something is amiss architecturally.
But general contractor Travis Chatman, of Travis Chatman Construction, said the windows were installed according to the accepted plans’ specifications, and said his company is getting the short end of the deal.
“They accepted the plans we were working from at one time, then somebody at the school or the school board said they didn’t like them,” Chatman said. “There was a conflict in the drawings, and it looks like we’re in one of those incidents where we’re left holding the bag.”
The phones specified by the original plans weren’t compatible with the school’s existing system, he said, leading to delays in their installation, and understandings with the subcontractors would have resulted in everyone being paid eventually, Chatman added.
“We had arrangements with them,” he said of the subcontractors. “Some of them might not have been paid right away, but they would have all gotten paid.”
Burleson said Chatman’s bonding agency, Cincinnati Insurance, has been paying contractors since early January, after the city asked the company to step in. He said that he believed the replacement windows were taking such a lengthy amount of time because the glass contractor had not yet been paid for the first job.
The city has used Travis Chatman Construction for other jobs previously, and the work was always acceptable, Burleson said.
“The sad thing about this whole thing is that the job turned out good,” Burleson said. “If he had done as good a job of paying his contractors as he did building the building, then we wouldn’t be talking about this now.”
The contractor, based in Kingsport, has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since March 2013, according to the ratings organization’s website.
There haven’t been any complaints to the BBB regarding the business, but because of the relatively short length of time it’s been in operation, it was awarded an A-minus grade.
Chatman said the ordeal would likely affect his company’s ability to be bonded in the future, which could result in the loss of construction jobs.
Now that the company’s bonding agent has stepped in, Burleson said 95 percent of the job has been paid for, and the city will soon file a performance claim with the company to get the windows remade.
He estimated the cost of the windows at approximately $12,000.