PIEDMONT – Piedmont Mayor Bill Baker apologized Tuesday evening to representatives of Low Life Construction, LLC, for comments that were made concerning the company at the Sept. 1 council meeting.
Low Life Construction has been contracted to renovate Piedmont’s downtown gazebo. The slowness of the project was discussed at the last meeting. District 5 Councilman Greg South asked for an update on the project, in which Mayor Bill Baker responded his suggestion would be to move on from the contractor if progress wasn’t made by the end of that week.
Low Life Construction was represented by Connie and Dallas Whorton at Tuesday’s meeting to present their position. They submitted a timeline of events from Feb. 28, when the bid on the project was first submitted to the city office, through Sept. 11, and demanded an apology for the remarks made by some members of the council.
“On Sept. 2, there was an article written by Mr. Shannon Fagan of WEIS Radio that contained some slanderous statements from the Sept. 1 council meeting about Low Life Construction,” Connie Whorton said at the beginning of her presentation. “After hearing the recording of the Sept. 1 Piedmont City Council meeting, we confirmed this council did discuss relieving Low Life Construction of our gazebo contract. We’re here to present our side of this issue.
“The city council has attacked our good name, and we’re not happy about it. You’ve done it without merit. We’re here to provide you with the correct information and explain any continuous remarks of inaccurate comments will hurt Low Life Construction financially.”
Connie Whorton proceeded to read statements made by Baker from the WEIS Radio article.
“Since people have a tendency to believe what they read, we feel that these remarks were slanderous to our business,” Connie Whorton said. “This article made it sound as if Billy Baker scolded Dallas like a child and threatened to terminate the gazebo contract. Dallas has never been talked to strongly by Billy Baker or (Piedmont City Building Inspector/Project Manager) Carl Hinton.”
One of the issues the Whortons had with Baker was dates on which concrete was scheduled to be poured for the project.
“Tuesday, Sept. 1 would have been a good weather day. It was a perfect weather day to pour the gazebo, but after cancelling the pour on Aug. 28, because of weather, Webb Concrete just can’t come in there the next day and supply concrete. You have to get on a waiting list. They did not supply the concrete until Sept. 4,” Connie Whorton said. “Good contractors keep very good, accurate records. We keep logs of our work completed. All of that information can be verified if you want to do so by emails, phone calls and texts made to city employees.”
Dallas Whorton, son of Connie Whorton, then read through the timeline. He concluded: “I’ve tried to make a good relationship with all you guys. I intend to keep it. I hope we can all look back on this and maybe laugh about it. All I want to do is work. You can see for yourself where the numbers are at and what the schedule says. Carl can vouch for every day on there.”
Connie Whorton then took the podium again.
“I’m a math teacher, so when you add those days up, it’s 110 days that we waited on the city to make the decision. That’s nearly four months,” she said. “Never once has the city, like Dallas said, waited on Dallas. It is a small, locally-owned business who is working hard. He wants to have a good relationship with this city council and would love to do some more jobs with you. He’s good. He’s local.
“I’m here to request the city council issue an apology, a retraction to the libelous statements that were made on WEIS Radio’s website. To you Mr. South, who made the statement at the last council meeting, and I quote your statement, “He bid on a job to do and it should be carried out.” We absolutely agree with that, without a doubt. That’s what we’re here to do, but it can only be carried out after the city makes certain decisions.
“For those of you councilmen who were quick to embrace the idea to relieve Low Life Construction and Dallas without hearing all the facts, I want to remind you again that you’re here to represent Piedmont, the people of Piedmont. Even though we’re not physically located in the city limits, we are located in Piedmont and we do represent Piedmont. You can at least give a small business like Dallas’s a fair shot. It was your delays and your lengthy decisions that took up so much time. We expect an apology and a retraction article on WEIS Radio’s website within the next day. Any lack of cooperation will leave us with no choice but to pass this matter on to our legal counsel. Thank you.”
Baker then responded to the Whortons.
“I appreciate the Whorton family being here today,” he began. “I did acknowledge and talk to Dallas and Mr. and Mrs. Whorton in our office. (Piedmont City Clerk) Michelle (Franklin) was there with me. I thought it was a good conversation. Connie expressed a lot of feelings about what she said tonight. I apologize for any confusion that I did. I apologize again if I caused any difficulties.
“Dallas has done work for us with other city projects. We’ve been pleased with what he’s done with buildings, roofs and stuff. I’m sure we will do some other work with him in the future. The gazebo, which he is doing now, looks very, very, very good. I look at it every day. It’s going to be a beautiful gazebo when it gets done.
“There were a lot of delays, and a lot of them were city related. We did have weather delays and we were waiting on a picture, a blueprint of the gazebo. That took quite a while to get. That caused a delay. Ordering the cement took some time. There was a delay. I did cancel the Monday pouring because I was afraid of rain. There was supposed to be heavy rain that day. I was afraid to take a chance to pour it and then have problems with cement hardening. We also had to pick out a color. That took a little bit of time. There were city delays that necessitated the timeframe Connie was talking about.
“The work Dallas has done was never questioned. It was very good and it still is very good. It’s going to be beautiful, like I said. If I’ve caused any problems, I apologize again. I apologized the day they came to the office. It was never my intent. What I was not wanting to do, the last council meeting when this was discussed, was getting something brought up on the floor, as far as a motion and a second. I did not want the project to be terminated because we had already put the bids out and we felt like the job would be done correctly. With the delays I mentioned, we’re moving along right now, and I think it’s going to be fine. I appreciate you all coming in. Like I said, I’m big enough to say if I caused some problems, it was not intentional. I stand good on my apology.”
South also expressed his apology to the Whortons.
“I misspoke. I was frustrated. It had been a long process,” South said. “You’ve well-informed me and I’m very educated on this process. Even before you came here tonight, I should have been a little bit more diligent. After what was said at the last council meeting, you have a good reputation. To be honest with you, I did not totally know who we had hired. We took recommendations from somebody else. The process was slow. I should choose my words better when I say something. I’m a business owner too, and I understand how harmful it can be. It’s in my heart to work with the city. I won’t make excuses. Like I say, I apologize and shouldn’t have said what I did.”
In other business from Tuesday’s meeting, minutes and bills were approved from the previous meeting. Regular expenses totaled $235,503.64. Two weeks of payroll were in the amount of $120,607.09, for a total of $356,110.73.
The council also approved two abatement issue resolutions, both dealing with grass cuttings on Anniston Avenue and 506 North Center Avenue. Council members were also given a 2020-21budget for review.
Piedmont Police Chief Freddie Norton also gave a report on police, abatement, and animal control for the month of August to the council.
Norton said 64 arrests were made throughout the month, including 15 felonies and 49 traffic tickets/citations. The police department worked seven traffic accidents and dispatched 397 calls for service, with 106 of those resulting in reports being filed. The dispatch office received 2,494 phone calls, including 668 rescue calls and 64 fire calls. Court collections for the month amounted to $20,279.79.
Norton said there were 34 total abatement cases for the month of August, including four new yard cases. Three cases are being processed. Eleven cases have been completed or are in compliance for the current month. There were no contracts on structures, no court appearances and three verbal contracts.
In animal control, there were 15 calls for service with one court case. Sixteen animals were picked up, with four taken to the shelter and 12 reclaimed by the owner.