The current home of the Mason County Emergency Ambulance Service Authority in Point Pleasant.

POINT PLEASANT – Despite pending lawsuits against them for alleged shoddy work and unpaid taxes for other projects they performed in the county, a Point Pleasant contractor was the low bidder for the county's new ambulance service garage.

On March 19, the Point Pleasant Register reported that Mid-Atlantic Construction was the low bidder for the garage to house the Mason County Emergency Ambulance Service Authority. The garage is part of a larger on-going project on Lucas Lane, just outside of Point Pleasant, to modernize and upgrade the county's 911 and emergency medical services' capability.

According to the Register, the total cost of the renovation is $1.4 million. MAC is the contractor on the remaining parts of the project, Blake said.

However, Chuck Blake said he was caught off-guard by the "low" bid. According to the Register, MAC's $335,000 winning bid was nearly $100,000 more than Blake anticipated.

The reason for the increased cost, Blake said, is mostly due to the high demand for materials needed to construct the proposed five-bay, 45-by-60 foot all-steel garage. Such materials are in short supply in the Gulf Coast, but desperately needed to assist in rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, Blake said.

Because of this, Blake told the Register, the garage will not be finished by the time for the 911/EMS center's grand opening on April 24. Until the garage can be constructed, Blake said all of the Authority's four ambulances and one utility vehicle will be parked outside.

"We still have some logistical issues to work out about that," Blake told the Register. "But everything is still on track for the main building."

When asked about lawsuits pending against MAC in Mason County Circuit Court, Blake said he was not aware of them. The role of scrutinizing a company's fitness to handle construction projects involving county resources falls to the county building authority.

"Since the building authority handles all that, I had no knowledge of it [the lawsuits]," Blake said.

Denying responsibility for flooding

In October, The Record reported that MAC was named as a co-defendant with the Mason County Board of Education in a suit brought by William and Jane Bird. In their suit filed January 2006, the Birds alleged that work done by MAC to nearby New Haven Elementary in preparation for its consolidation with Mason Elementary, resulted in their home being flooded.

According to court records, a heavy rain on July 18, 2005 resulted in water gushing onto their property. The flooding was so heavy that it knocked mortar out the concrete in their basement, and measured up to the level of their back porch, the Birds said.

The flooding, the Birds allege, was a direct result of MAC's excavation to the rear of New Haven Elementary's property causing the land to slope toward the back of their home. Thus far, the Birds estimated the value of damages done by the flooding at $55,000.

Initially, the Board appeared it would accept responsibility for flooding, and pay them for the damages they incurred. However, the Birds said they received letters from both the Board and MAC denying responsibility.

When attempts to mediate the dispute failed, the Birds brought their suit. Though maintaining the flooding was "an act of God," the Board's attorneys incorporated the Bird's allegation in a cross claim against MAC.

According to court records, MAC filed a cross claim against Raynes Construction of Eleanor, a subcontractor it used on the project. However, MAC's cross claim was later dismissed.

Owing $49,000 to city

A recent search of court records discovered a second, older suit against MAC. This one involved the city of Point Pleasant suing them for unpaid taxes.

According to court records, MAC owes the city $49,000 for its "perform[ance] of various and certain construction projects."

Though it was unclear as to exactly what, the suit, filed by then-city recorder Marilyn McDaniel, alleges "As a result of aforesaid construction projects, the Defendant owes to the city of Point Pleasant, business and occupation taxes, which Defendant has failed and refused to pay."

McDaniel filed the suit on June 30, 2003, a day before her term as recorder ended. McDaniel vacated her seat in an unsuccessful run for mayor in that year's city election.

The timing of the suit was something noted by MAC's attorney Raymond G. Musgrave. In a reply dated July 23, 2003, Musgrave said the suit should be dismissed "due to the vague, ambiguous and undefinable specific instances alleged by the Plaintiff."

Records show no further action has been taken in the case, which is before Mason Circuit Judge Thomas J. Evans. Attempts to find out more details on the case were unsuccessful as James Casey, Point Pleasant's city attorney, was out of town, and could not be reached for a comment.

Also out of town and unavailable for comment was county building authority chairman John Collins.

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