Forest Hill Road contractor seeks to join legal fight

mstucka@macon.comJune 24, 2013 

The contractor hired to widen part of Forest Hill Road now wants to become a defendant in the lawsuit that halted the work.

R.J. Haynie & Associates says Bibb County Superior Court restraining orders to block the construction have put people out of work. The company has an $8.4 million contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation to widen the road.

In the June 17 motion to join the lawsuit, Haynie’s attorney, Marietta-based Frederick L. Wright, said personnel and equipment that were assigned to the project are “currently idle for the most part, which is causing Haynie to incur unanticipated expenses.”

Local contractors include James Hightower Trucking and Reeves Construction of Macon, and Middle Georgia Signs and Paulk Landscaping of Cochran.

Haynie has not said how much money the delays have cost the company, though it warned the state in March that there could be potential costs. The company planned to begin tree clearing, sewer line installation and retaining wall work in March -- work that was to have begun days after the first restraining order went into place.

Community activist Lindsay “Doc” Holliday filed the lawsuit in December after Haynie won the bid. Holliday said the road design isn’t as safe as one he prefers, and the tree canopy would be “unnecessarily decimated.” When ordering an injunction, Superior Court Judge Edgar Ennis agreed the trees are effectively irreplaceable.

Haynie was told by the state to proceed with the work about Feb. 1, according to the company’s motion. The company had put up traffic barrels but hadn’t begun other work.

Neither Holliday nor the Georgia Department of Transportation have yet responded to Haynie’s motion to join the lawsuit.

Mark Spence, Haynie’s project manager for Forest Hill Road, said the company has removed the traffic barrels and left the project site. But with a difficult economy, Haynie and its subcontractors have a hard time finding other places to work.

“We’ve scrambled to find other places to work but, no, the (Department of Transportation) is not compensating us at this time for those workers,” Spence said. “The economy’s bad already. People are glad to have a job and were depending on this, and this falls through. I’m sure they’ve let crews go and are doing the best they can.”

The Georgia DOT has sought to hold Holliday responsible for any costs attributed to the delay, which it said could exceed the $8.4 million contract price.

Haynie says if it’s allowed to join the lawsuit as a defendant, it won’t delay the case.

“To the contrary, Haynie’s obvious interest is in concluding the matter as soon as possible,” Wright wrote.

Discovery in the lawsuit is scheduled to be completed by July 31. A trial date has not been set.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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