PIKEVILLE, Tenn. — Bledsoe County Attorney Howard Upchurch says the county will file a lawsuit this week to recoup money paid to the architect for the new county Justice Center.
Mr. Upchurch wouldn’t discuss details of the pending suit or how much money was involved, but described it as a “breach of contract action.”
In October, architect J. Mark Rodgers withdrew from the project, citing “a hostile environment,” according to a Sept. 30 letter to the county mayor’s office.
The dispute came to a head when bids for an anticipated $5 million jail came in at double that figure, officials said.
There’s no way to gauge the pending suit’s impact on the county, Mr. Upchurch said on Wednesday.
“Anytime you’re in litigation, it adversely affects all parties,” he said. “Litigation is the last resort in disputes such as these.”
But Mr. Rodgers said the contract requires that disputes be settled through mediation and arbitration rather than court. That process is binding and allows no appeals, he said.
Mr. Rodgers said he provided the services for which the county has paid him about $250,000, 75 percent of the full contract. He said he can document services and his efforts to resolve differences.
Meanwhile, the county is prepared to wait for the dispute to be settled, but the costs of delay continue to mount, County Mayor Gregg Ridley said.
The county pays about $150,000 a year to house 10 to 20 inmates a day in other jails and has spent $250,000 on maintenance and measures to keep the new jail site in good shape through winter, Mr. Ridley said.
“We have got to move the jail project forward,” he said. “It’s unfair to the taxpayers that we would continue to send this money out of county to house these prisoners.”
But the county could benefit from dropping fuel prices that can translate into lower construction costs when the project is rebid, he said.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...