By Sarah Vogelsong
The contractor for the Caroline Family YMCA and the owner of the building, the Rappahannock Area YMCA, are butting heads over unfinished work at Caroline County’s first YMCA facility in Ladysmith Village.
On June 27, the Rappahannock YMCA’s law firm Hirschler Fleischer issued the contractor, Thurston Companies, Inc., a Notice of Default outlining 29 areas of work that are either unfinished or deficient. A number of problems stem from roof failures in the men’s and women’s locker rooms and the gymnasium as a result of a condensation line from the rooftop AC and heating systems leaking into the ceiling. Other problems are related to issues such as erosion concerns and the HVAC system.
The notice attributes these issues to “Thurston’s failure to properly inspect, coordinate, and supervise the (w)ork” and states that as a result, “the YMCA has incurred substantial additional costs” valued at about $134,000.
But Thurston Companies president Steve Thurston claims that the notice is “not accurate” and is “a little freewheeling in (its) language and terminology.”
“We substantially completed the work back in February,” he said.
County building inspector Kevin Wightman characterized the outstanding problems as “minimal—nothing that’s a life safety issue or a hazard to the general public.”
“Nothing (on the list) is very major,” Rappahannock Area YMCA CEO Barney Reiley confirmed. “But needless to say, they’ve got to get done. … We’ve got to take care of things to not jeopardize (our ability to stay open).”
Thurston stated that company employees have been on site for a week and a half working to resolve the remaining problems and that the project should be completed by the end of next week.
“We’re in the process of taking care of them, but (the YMCA) didn’t notify us for months,” he said.
Reiley stated that Thurston “has been very cooperative” in completing the unfinished work, but Thurston expressed disappointment in the way the situation has been handled.
“I don’t even get the decency of a phone call,” he said. “I just get a default notice from an attorney.”
The second half of the Notice of Default further claims that Thurston has not paid seven subcontractors and suppliers for the project. Three subcontractors—Madison & Morgan Masonry Contractors, Inc., Barranger & Company, Inc., and Godsey & Son, Inc.—have filed mechanic’s liens in Caroline County Circuit Court against Thurston.
These liens, which were filed between April 23 and June 9, incorrectly identify the Caroline County Board of Supervisors as the owner of the Caroline YMCA. Although the county owns the property on which the facility sits, the Rappahannock Area YMCA owns the building and was responsible for its construction.
Thurston claims that it hasn’t been able to pay its subcontractors because the YMCA has not yet paid its bills to Thurston Companies.
“It makes a bit of a standoff,” he said. “They want their work finished. I want to be paid.”
The liens are not the only subcontractor problem Thurston has faced in relation to the Caroline YMCA. In March 2013, Battlefield Masonry, the masonry company initially hired by Thurston for the project, was fined $4,000 by the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation and its license was revoked. DPOR simultaneously fined Thurston $3,350, placed its license on a six-month probation, and ordered employees to complete remedial education courses.
According to Thurston, Battlefield had submitted fraudulent documents claiming to be a class A licensed contractor and to have the appropriate insurance, when neither was true. Thurston stated that his company was caught in the middle.
The problems with Battlefield were first uncovered by county inspectors.
“The work (Battlefield) did, to me, was in total violation of what a contractor is supposed to do,” said Wightman, who ordered that the walls erected by the subcontractor be torn down and rebuilt several times. Ultimately, Wightman submitted a roughly 160-page report to the state on Battlefield’s work, which set the wheels in motion for the DPOR investigation and action.
Battlefield was subsequently replaced by Madison & Morgan, one of the subcontractors who has filed a lien against Thurston. Wightman noted that the second company had done a “fine job” and that “everything they did was compliant with the code.”
Regardless of the problems the facility has faced, Reiley expressed optimism that the project would be completed soon.
“The main thing is, we want the people of Caroline County to have a nice YMCA that can improve the quality of their life,” he said.