Contractor says county owes him for Bluffton Parkway work

The president of a company hired in January 2008 to help with construction engineering and inspection of a Bluffton Parkway extension says the county owes him $138,000 and that he opposes a recommendation from county staff to give the work to another contractor.

Beaufort County Council's Public Facilities Committee removed discussion of the new contract from its Tuesday agenda after Dan Dennis, president of Dennis Corp., addressed the committee and sent a letter to its chairman outlining his concerns.

Dennis said his corporation already has performed work on the project -- an eastern extension of the parkway -- including helping the Santee Cooper energy company relocate power lines. He said field crews also have set survey stakes along the length of the roadway and assisted several other utility companies.

"I thought I had done three years' worth of excellent work," Dennis said.

But county administrator Gary Kubic said county staff decided to reopen bidding for the work originally awarded to the Dennis Corp. to reduce the price of the contract.

The project has been delayed while the county awaits federal permits, including permission to fill wetlands along the route, which would stretch from Burnt Church Road to Buckingham Plantation Drive. Kubic said staff decided to use that time to see if another firm would do the work for a lower price than was awarded in 2008.

"Economic conditions change," Kubic said.

Kubic said the current contract has a clause that allows the county to terminate for "convenience," which encompasses a wide range of reasons.

Dennis said his firm's contract fee was about $1.08 million. County staff recommended remaining work be awarded instead to Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. for $1.01 million.

Dennis said his firm already completed $209,000 worth of work on the project. The county has paid for only about $70,000 of the work, he said.

Bryan Hill, deputy county administrator, said the county's lawyer is working with lawyers for the Dennis Corp. to sort out the payment dispute and determine how much work the firm has completed. He said discussion of replacing the contract was postponed to give staff time to work with Dennis.

The Bluffton Parkway extension was part of a $152 million bond package voters approved in 2006. That package included a 1 cent sales tax for five years. However, the county doesn't have the money to complete the entire project.

That's because impact fees, which also would help fund the projects, are anticipated to fall more than $50 million below original projections, forcing the county to delay several phases of the extension.