Contractor bought steel for new Zachary City Hall, but the project was rejected. Who pays?

Contractor bought steel for new Zachary City Hall, but the project was rejected. Who pays?
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The building was to feature governmental offices on the top two stories and retail space on the bottom floor that would be rented out. In exchange for building the facility, Downtown Strategies wanted the city to put up an initial $12 million and lease the land to the firm for 30 years — after which the city would have the chance to buy the building.

In October 2021, members of the City Council — then composed of LeBlanc, Francis Nezianya, Laura O’Brien, Hunter Landry and Lael Montgomery — voted 4-1 to reject the proposal, with the majority saying they were uncomfortable with the long lease period and the lack of a bidding process.

But by the night of that vote, Downtown Strategies’ general contractor, Kent Design + Build of Mandeville, had already bought the steel for about $423,000, according to the emails — despite not yet having a written contract. Kent was later able to sell the steel package back to Harrell’s Metal Works for about $255,000.

In a November 2022 email to Amrhein and other officials, Stephen P. Leara, the firm’s general counsel, detailed the situation and asked for about $168,000 in reimbursement. Besides the mayor, the message was sent to city attorney John Hopewell, chief financial officer Deanna Mankins, public relations officer Sharon Phillips and former chief administrative officer Steve Nunnery.

“We received direction from Mayor Amrhein in June of 2021 to proceed and order the steel package required for the Project, ostensibly to lock in steel prices and prevent unnecessary price increases for the Project,” Leara wrote. “We understand that the City Council authorized Mayor Amrhein to purchase the steel for the Project.”

Leara went on to say Amrhein instructed the team to order the steel during a June 23, 2021, phone call with Robert Jolly, a cofounder of Retail Strategies and CEO of another spinoff company, Retail Specialists.

LeBlanc said a vote authorizing the purchase never took place.

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About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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