By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – ServoPro representative Maureen Winfree and attorney Marie Racine were unable to make any progress with city officials during an Aug. 19 Zoom city council meeting over a disputed mold remediation billing.
Mayor Wheeler Marsee and city council members maintain that ServPro officials were told, during the mold remediation of the fire station on Oakwood Boulevard, that any additional charges above the original $10,000 approved would have to be voted on by city officials to ensure payment.
ServPro officials maintain they did the work they were hired to do, in an expedited manner, while maintaining that the extra costs were justified.
City Councilwoman Dawn Cartrette spoke for the council when she said that they never received detailed invoices, as requested, from ServPro for the mold remediation work, and especially for the unauthorized overages for which it now seeks payment.
Racine said that testing invoices were provided, when the other invoices were provided, and said she is willing to submit them again. However, none of the council members said they received the requested invoices.
Cartrette said that city officials had a clear agreement with ServoPro for $400 per hour for labor and materials, and she said ServPro estimated that the work would require 20 hours to do, and that the city council gave ServPro a cap of $10,000, of which it was aware.
“You knew, if you needed more money, you needed to come back and ask for it,” Cartrette said. “I never received the invoices from the testing company, what you were charged by them. All you provided were test results. That wasn’t what I asked for.”
Cartrette also said she was under the impression that only 22 of the 28 hours in question were billed to the city.
“I have no problem paying you for 20 hours, at $400 per hour, for labor and materials, which is what you quoted, plus your sub-let for duct cleaning and environmental testing, as long as you provide the invoices from the environmental testing company,” Cartrette said. “If my calculations are correct, based on what you first said, it should be somewhere in the area of $4,600.”
Racine said there were inquiries made directly to their subcontractor for invoices, which she said she felt were inappropriate.
“I would like to make just one other comment on what you just said,” Racine said. “When someone quotes $400 an hour for labor and materials, it is impossible to quote a price per hour for materials. Materials are not billed by the hour.”
Racine said the conversation about “$400 per hour” was for the labor portion of the contract.
“I know there is a difference of opinion on whether it is clear or not,” Racine said. “But the contract does not state a cap of $10,000 entirely for this job. It says that all services are to be paid for.”
Marsee said the city council had a special meeting on a Saturday to address ServPro’s mold remediation proposal for the fire station, and while he had the authority to allocate funds for the work, he intentionally chose to get the city council involved in the decision.
He said at that live meeting (pre-COVID-19) they were given a verbal estimate of what the cost was, not only per hour, but for materials.
“Everybody that is involved right now, the council, and everybody here, a figure of $8,000 was brought to this council, and we actually gave $2,000 above that, because we have no idea what this stuff costs,” Marsee said. “It was capped at that, but now you are coming back to us for $11,000, more than twice of what we capped it at. We are amazed at how that could happen.”
He said the city council members should be provided with all of the documentation to support the additional $11,000 in unauthorized charges.
“We did not write a blank check,” Marsee said. “We had a special meeting so we could determine what this would cost us, and the sad part was is your client gave us an estimate that day, that we thought we could rely on, and that’s not the case.”
Racine said that while she understands the city council’s dilemma, she thinks there is a misunderstanding between ServPro and city officials about time and material costs.
Marsee countered that Maureen Winfree of ServPro came back, three months later, asking for an additional $11,000, which was not authorized.
“There was no black mold at the fire department, something that we based the whole thing on,” Marsee said.
“There was black mold,” Winfree said, which she said was backed up by environmental testing.
Marsee contends that they were told that the small amount of mold that was measured was consistent with mold found in any environment, and that the council was not told that dangerous levels of black mold were present in the fire station.
City Councilman Joe Jackson confirmed that the council members were told that the mold measured in the fire station was consistent with normal household mold.
Support for the motion was withdrawn, and no further action on the topic took place.