County files suit over new water treatment plant

Shelby County filed suit Wednesday against B. L. Harbert International, L.L.C., the company that built the new $48.1 million Shelby County South Water Treatment Plant, alleging that Harbert did not complete the project.

The county hired Harbert Dec. 22, 2005, to build the 16-million-gallon-per-day treatment plant near Wilsonville.

The plant was to be completed by Feb. 28, 2008. According to the suit, Harbert contends that the facility was completed Aug. 7, 2008. Although the plant has been in use since July 1, 2008, the county claims the facility has not been satisfactorily completed yet.

County attorney Frank C. “Butch” Ellis Jr. said the county had no recourse other than to file a lawsuit.

“We didn’t want a lawsuit. We wanted the water plant to be completed, but for the last year and a half, there’s been a real struggle with trying to get this thing completed,” Ellis said. “It was supposed to be completed by Feb. 28, 2008, and it still has a lot of things the county feels were not satisfactorily completed.”

Ellis declined to comment further, saying the matter is in litigation.

According to court documents, Harbert claims the county is liable for an overdue payment of more than $1.6 million. The contractor is preparing an additional claim of $2 million for “unreasonable review of submittals, over-inspection, interference/disruption, defective design documents and delays.”

The county is asking the circuit court to rule that the decision not to pay the $1.6 million was contractually valid and to throw out the $2 million claim. The county also wants Harbert to maintain builder’s risk and property insurance until the project is completed.

The county also claims the contract provides for damages up to $4,500 per day from Feb. 28, 2008 “for as long as the project remains incomplete.”

Multiple calls to Harbert seeking comment were unreturned.