From WMBF News partner My Horry News:
A company that supplied construction materials for Horry County's five new schools filed a series of lawsuits against the school district, the contractors, a subcontractor and related insurance firms this month, alleging in court documents that the company is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for its products and services.
Capitol Materials of Savannah, Inc. filed five separate suits, one for each of the new schools, and wants to be paid nearly $780,000 that it is owed, according to the court documents, which were filed on Sept. 13, 14 and 15. The company is also seeking interest and attorney fees.
Along with Horry County Schools and contractor Firstfloor Energy Positive, the lawsuit names Hester Drywall, Inc., Metcon, Inc., T.A. Loving Company, Selective Insurance Company of America, and Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America as defendants.
School district spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier declined to discuss the lawsuits.
"It is school policy not to provide any commentary on substantive matters relating to pending litigation," she said via email.
The lawsuits allege Capitol provided labor, materials and equipment for the construction of the new schools, but the subcontractor, Hester, did not pay the company, despite repeated demands.
However, the lawsuits also state that the school district and the contractor owe Hester for its work.
The insurance companies listed in the lawsuits issued bonds naming the subcontractor and contractors and principals, according to court records.
Capitol wants the court to issue a judgment against the defendants for the money the business contends it is owed.
The debts range from just over $81,000 for supplies and work at Ten Oaks Middle School in Carolina Forest to more than $212,000 for products and services at Myrtle Beach Middle School.
Although the company doesn't describe the work it provided, its website says it offers drywall, steel for framing, insulation, ceiling tiles and tools, among other materials and delivery services.
Capitol's attorney, Steven Smith of Charleston, could not be reached for comment.
Just getting the schools built has been a challenge.
Three of the new schools are open, but Socastee Middle School and Myrtle Beach Middle School remain under construction.
Firstfloor was awarded the contracts for all five new schools, and the price tag totaled just over $240 million in November of 2015. The contracts stipulated that all of the schools would be completed by May 1.
That didn't happen.
The first three schools received their certificates of occupancy in August and workers were still putting on the finishing touches just days before the first school bell.
Firstfloor CEO Robbie Ferris has said the delays for the first three schools came down to weather, change orders and taking on the tasks of putting in roads to the schools that originally been proposed to be handled by a different contractor.
The construction contracts had mechanisms built in that would allow for extra days to be added to the completion timeline for every day that had at least one-tenth of an inch of rain.
Ferris said Hurricane Matthew was a major stumbling block for his construction crews.
When the contracts were first awarded, school board chairman Joe DeFeo said one of the reasons Firstfloor got the jobs was because the company said there would be no costs to the district for any change orders that cropped up during construction.
Ferris has said that most of the change orders that occurred during the construction were not billed to the district.
On Wednesday, Ferris provided a statement through a spokeswoman that said Hester Drywall had been hired to perform drywall and acoustical ceiling tile work on all five schools.
"Unfortunately, during August, Hester Drywall went out of business," Ferris said. "Capitol Material of Savannah claims that it was not paid by Hester Drywall for materials that it provided and has filed lawsuits as a result. Hester Drywall was required to be bonded as part of its contract and its surety is involved and will be working through the claims related to them."
A representative for Hester Drywall could not be reached for comment.