Archer Western Contractors of Atlanta announced in a news release last week that Jesup lawyer Mike Conner would represent it in ongoing litigation related to barracks it built on Fort Stewart. The 20 barracks are part of the installation’s $427 million 4th Infantry Combat Brigade Team complex.
Conner is the managing partner of the Conner Law Group and Jesup’s city attorney. Archer Western Contractors is a subsidiary of the Walsh Group.
“Archer Western was and is excited to be involved in this project but was disappointed by the way the subcontract with Exterior Walls was carried out,” Conner said. “Archer Western looks forward to sorting these issues out in federal court and completing work on the barracks project.”
In March, one of Archer Western’s subcontractors, Exterior Walls Inc. (EWI) of Orlando, told the Courier it was not compensated for additional costs incurred when the barracks construction was “accelerated” to meet a July completion date and therefore the small company had trouble paying wages owed to construction workers. Several EWI construction workers told the Courier they were owed two to four weeks worth of wages.
“They eventually paid us our money,” James Hatfield, a former EWI foreman, said. “It wasn’t EWI that paid; it was the bond company that paid.
“I had to have my cell phone shut off. I couldn’t afford it anymore with so many employees calling me over not getting paid,” he said.
Hatfield said he never had any problems with Archer Western and now is working as a foreman for one of the company’s other subcontractors building offices inside the 4th brigade complex.
“Nobody is blaming Archer Western one bit,” he said. “It wasn’t their fault. Everybody I’ve talked to says it was EWI.”
Ivan Moreno, EWI director of operations, said his company has retained Tallahassee law firm Gray Robinson, P.A., and is preparing to sue Archer Western for more than $3 million.
“We have a claim against them. We haven’t actually sued them yet. We’re going to,” Moreno said Monday.
According to Moreno, the barracks completion date had been delayed by about five months and so his company accelerated the build process to meet its contractual obligations to Archer Western.
He said his company had hired more people, expanding its work force from 40 to about 200 workers. The subcontractor’s workers also worked weekends and overtime to finish the project, Moreno added.
“Before (Archer Western) gave us any money, they wanted us to sign a waiver,” Moreno said. He said his company’s lawyer advised them not to sign it because then they could not make a claim.
“We’re just about ready to close the doors,” Moreno said. He said his company hopes to recover “payroll, additional work on the (project’s) scope and acceleration of the work” via the pending lawsuit.
In an email EWI distributed to other subcontractors involved in the barracks construction, it alleges several subcontracted companies were not fully paid for original contracts or change orders.
Conner detailed Archer Western’s take on its subcontract with EWI, stating EWI entered into a sub-subcontract with another subcontractor, CQ Insulation Inc. Archer Western’s attorney said CQ Insulation alleges EWI has not paid them the owed amount of $89,220.34 and therefore has made a claim on Archer Western for these funds.
Conner said his client, Archer Western, is entitled to indemnity from EWI and CQ Insulation. He added EWI failed to maintain the project’s work schedule, causing substantial delays in completing the barracks.
Archer Western contends EWI breached its subcontract and is filing a claim for more than $5 million against the subcontractor, according to Conner.