Executive for Main Street contractor backing off conspiracy claims

The contractor behind the Main Street construction project in Montesano is backing off statements made by a now former employee and hoping to come to a quicker resolution on payment issues with the city.

The project manager for Olympia-based South Bay Excavating had alleged city officials led a conspiracy to ensure a local contractor had an upper hand in awarding the bid of a new directional drilling contract for a different project. City Council members and city staff have been frustrated with the work done on the Main Street project. When South Bay ended up the low bidder of the drilling project in December, rather than work with them again, the council rejected all of the bids. In the end, local contractor Rognlin’s got the contract when all of the bids were re-submitted.

South Bay protested the city’s actions and the project manager followed up the protest with a four-page supplemental letter, in which he alleged that Public Works Director Rocky Howard, a former Rognlin’s supervisor, decided to give the local contractor the upper hand. The complaint went on to say that Howard had “continued to retaliate with the intent of bringing harm to South Bay by slandering, withholding payment, walking out of meetings and making false reports to the mayor and council about South Bay’s performance” on the Main Street construction project.

Howard denied the allegations and said he had nothing to do with the city’s decision to can all of the bids in December and try again.

A letter provided to Montesano City Council members on Feb. 11, the night of the city council, from vice president of South Bay Excavating Jason Clements states that the supplement letter provided by the city wasn’t done with the ownership’s permission.

“Although we do not necessarily discredit the merit of the protest, we would like to take a moment to express that the letter contained statements and views which do not represent the opinions of the management and ownership of South Bay Excavating, Inc.,” writes Clements. “The letter contained personal views, which we believe do not serve the purpose of pursuing an agreeable resolution. We look forward to working with you on current and future projects.”

A secretary responding to a call from The Vidette on Feb. 12 to South Bay’s Olympia office said that the project manager no longer works for the construction firm. Clements didn’t return a message seeking comment. The construction firm still has an outstanding lawsuit in Grays Harbor Superior Court against the city of Montesano seeking interest and back payments for the Main Street construction project. City Attorney Dan Glenn provided notice that he was representing the city in the lawsuit, but hadn’t filed an answer to the legal complaint yet. On Tuesday night, the council went into a closed door executive session to discuss the aspects of the lawsuit. No action was taken after the fact.

City Administrator Kristy Powell says that the city still has a bill of $23,587 that has not been paid to the contractor. The city has paid more than $1 million on the project, so far, with the original bid for the project at $958,913.


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