Council refuses to pay unapproved charges
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVIN DALE — A local ServPro franchise is demanding the city pay an additional $11,000 for January fire station mold remediation, and the City Council refused to approve the unauthorized charges.
At a special council meeting held Jan. 25 to discuss mold remediation at Fire Station 5 on Oakwood Boulevard, the council approved $10,000, $2,000 more than ServPro representative Maureen Winfree requested at the time.
Now, however, Winfree is demanding an additional $11,000, which had not been approved. Her legal counsel, Marie Racine, argued her case during a June 17 online council meeting.
Racine said detailed invoices have been submitted, and said her client made clear to the city council that the mold remediation was a time- and materials-driven project.
“Because of (Winfree’s) desire to do what’s right, in addition to jumping in and tackling this job on a very fast pace, and making sure that it was done right, there are a lot of things that she did not bill for, because of her allegiance to the Dearborn firefighters,” Racine said. “Please consider that there was no expedite fee, there was no time-and-a-half for the overtime she and her crew worked, and there were two other experts she was able to have come walk the site with her, for at least a couple hours, and no time was billed for their insight.”
She said the experts were from Tech Environmental, and from ServPro in Saginaw.
Racine said ServPro did not charge for its equipment decontamination at the conclusion of the job, and did not charge for six hours of work on the Monday during which the firehouse was turned back over to the city following the mold remediation.
“I want to point out that in the contract it does state that if ServPro has to litigate in order to recover what is owed, that they are entitled to legal fees and costs,” Racine said. “That is a provision that in Michigan is enforceable, and that is not what you would prefer to do.”
City Attorney Lawrence Coogan said Winfree came before the council on Jan. 25, at a special Saturday morning meeting, and were told that the cost of the project would be approximately $8,000 for time and material.
“The council authorized a payment of $10,000 towards that,” Coogan said. “At no point did your client, up until submitting the final bill, present that to the city, or seek authorization for additional funding.”
Coogan reiterated that there was not an open or blank check.
He also said that toxic black mold was not found in the fire station, so there was no contamination for which their equipment had to be treated.
“Given the fact that it was reported that there was black mold, when there was not, and it was not in a situation that required remediation to begin with, I want to correct those misstatements that you made,” Coogan said. “As a municipality, the city council has the authority to approve or disapprove bills, and I cannot believe that this is the first municipality that ServPro has worked with, and expected to get a blank check.”
He said it was incumbent upon Winfree to report any cost overruns to the city council to get approval for additional spending.
“I think the law is very clear in the city’s behalf,” Coogan said. “If you spend funds beyond what you are authorized, you can’t expect payment.”
Coogan confirmed that he discussed the situation further with the attorney for ServoPro following the meeting, and no agreement was reached.