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Residents targeted by subcontractor who wants to be paid for work  

Credit:  By BRYON ACKERMAN, Observer-Dispatch, www.uticaod.com 12 April 2011 ~~

A dispute involving a subcontractor for the Hardscrabble Wind Farm has resulted in a mechanic’s lien being placed on all of the property owners with wind turbines on their land.

The Saunders Concrete Co. also placed the lien on some people who don’t have turbines on their property, the city of Little Falls and the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency, according to the lien document and interviews with landowners.

Fairfield resident Donald Dixon, 74, has two wind turbines on his property and was listed in the mechanic’s lien.

“When I got that, I read it and thought, ‘They’re crazy,’” Dixon said. “What are we going to do as owners of the land? We had nothing to do with their cement.”

For the construction of the 37 turbines in Fairfield and Norway, project developer Iberdrola Renewables hired the M. A. Mortenson Co. as its general contractor. Saunders Concrete Co., which has offices in Nedrow, was a subcontractor for the M. A. Mortenson Co.

The issue has to do with a dispute about how much money Mortenson owes Saunders Concrete Co. for the work performed.

During construction, the project was shut down for more than a week when it was found that concrete used in the foundations of some of the turbines did not meet the company standards for Iberdrola Renewables.

The lien

For work Saunders Concrete Co. performed and wasn’t paid for, the company placed a lien on the wind project property in the sum of almost $2 million as of when the lien was filed on April 4 in the Herkimer County Clerk’s Office.

M. A. Mortenson also has filed a claim against Saunders related to the project and has started binding arbitration, which will result in a ruling on the disputes between Mortenson and Saunders, according to an e-mailed statement from Tim Maag, the general manager/vice president for Mortenson’s Renewable Energy Groups.

“Mortenson is disappointed that Saunders decided to now involve the individual property owners instead of proceeding to resolve disputes with Mortenson through the required binding arbitration,” Maag said.

M. A. Mortenson also has started the process of filing a lien discharge bond with the Herkimer County Clerk’s Office to transfer the lien from the real property to the bond. The bond must be 110 percent of the lien, and the process is expected to be completed next week, according to the company.

“While mechanic’s liens are not uncommon in construction contracts, we believe that Saunders had other avenues available to resolve their dispute with Mortenson and by pursuing a mechanic’s lien they have unnecessarily involved the landowners involved in this project as well as several that are not even part of the project,” Iberdrola Renewables said in a letter to all of the project’s landowners.

Saunders Concrete Co. referred questions to the company’s attorney, Bill Gilberti, of the Gilberti Stinziano Heintz and Smith law firm, who could not be reached Tuesday.

‘This is wrong’

Jeff Roche, the Fairfield deputy supervisor, has one turbine on his property and is listed in the lien. Some other land owners are considering a lawsuit against Saunders Concrete Co., he said.

Roche, however, said he believes Iberdrola and Mortenson will get the lien removed from the property owners.

“I’m not concerned about it at all,” Roche said. “But I know a lot of people are, and that concerns me.”

Fairfield resident Jimmy Salamone, 59, can see 11 wind turbines from his property on Davis Road. None of the turbines are on his property, but he was listed in the mechanic’s lien anyway.

Salamone, who is opposed to the project, said he has been incorrectly listed as a participant for years, and he has been fighting to get his name removed. Now, he unnecessarily has a lien on his property, and he worries it will affect his ability to sell the house or apply for a loan, he said.

“I had nothing to do with it,” he said. “This is wrong.”

Little Falls Mayor Robert Peters said he doesn’t understand why the city of Little Falls was listed on the lien because the city had no involvement whatsoever with the wind project.

Herkimer County IDA Executive Director Mark Feane said it wasn’t surprising to him that the IDA was listed on the lien because the agency was involved with the wind project’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement.

“I’m very confident that it’s going to be resolved soon, and it’s an issue that needs to be resolved between those parties,” Feane said.

Source:  By BRYON ACKERMAN, Observer-Dispatch, www.uticaod.com 12 April 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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