County Administrator Randy Harris told the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners at a financial workshop Thursday that $471,182.37 is needed to pay the balance of two contracts with JB Coxwell Contracting for work at the catalyst site. In addition to the catalyst site debt, the commissioners are still searching for alternatives to pay approximately $3.5 million owed to TSS Development.
The catalyst site
Harris told commissioners $471,182.37 is needed to pay the earthwork and storm pipe/sinkhole contracts with JB Coxwell Contracting.
According to Harris, the original earthwork contract with change orders amounted to $5,443,168. To date, $4,710,743.69 has been paid, leaving a balance of $732,424.31. The contract, with proposed change order, for the storm pipe/sinkhole contract is $1,086,768.37, which has not been paid.
The total balance owed on the two contracts stands at $1,818,192.68. Of the $1.8 million owed, only $1,348,010.31 has been designated, leaving a balance of $471,182.37.
TSS Development lawsuit
On Aug. 23, 2013, Third Judicial Circuit Judge David Fina said Suwannee County breached a development agreement with botched Suwannee Landing parent company TSS Development in his final judgment, and ordered the county to pay TSS $2.75 million in damages plus $68,145 for 19.47 acres that was conveyed to the county by the developer.
Harris said he has had a conference call with Fred Treadway, owner of TSS Development, to see if the county could pay the debt over a period of time and what the interest rates would be on $3.5 million.
“In a conference call (Wednesday, Oct. 23) with Mr. Treadway and his council, we ran six years at 6 percent. That annual debt service would be $696,060. At 6.5 percent for seven years, it is $623,676 annually,” Harris said.
If the county considered taking out a loan with the bank, at 4.75 percent for 15 years, the annual debt service would be $326,688. At 4.5 percent for 10 years, the annual debt service would be $435,276.
“I wanted that information to be available to the commissioners because we need to make a decision at the next meeting,” Chairman Wesley Wainwright said.
On Sept. 9, the county filed an appeal to the First District Court of Appeal. While the county is going through the appeals process, the county is not responsible for paying the judgment until the case has been heard in the appeals court. “In an appeal such as this one, the Appellant (the County) is asking the appellate court (the District Court of Appeal) to give its interpretation of the statutes and legal authorities applicable to this case and reverse the final judgment if it disagrees with the Circuit Court,” said Tommy Reeves, the attorney handling the lawsuit for the county. “This case was factually and legally complex and involved several areas of the law where there was little or no Florida law directly on point. In such cases it would be extremely rare for there not to be an appeal, regardless of the outcome.”
Reeves continued, “In any event, the process is that the County will file its Initial Brief first. (A brief is a written explanation to the District Court of Appeal of the party’s legal arguments and position in the appeal.) TSS will then file an Answer Brief and the County with then file a Reply Brief. Usually (but not always) the District court of Appeal will then set the case for oral arguments in Tallahassee or Gainesville. After that the District Court will issue its ruling either affirming or reversing the Circuit Court.”
In any event, the county is seeking $4 million. The county is currently seeking the assistance from local counties, including Columbia County, and is also considering taking out a loan to cover the debts owed.