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City of Bonifay postpones paying city’s bills to satisfy Holley invoice, avoid project termination

BONIFAY – The City of Bonifay avoided the cessation of work on the Bonifay Fire Department expansion project on Friday when it paid the outstanding invoice amount of $124,930 to Holley Development Corp.

The company on July 26 issued a Notice of Intent to Terminate the project on grounds of non-payment, giving the city ten calendar days to pay the outstanding balance.

At the time of the notice’s issuance, Mayor James Sims was confidant the Department of Economic Opportunity would reimburse $277,000 in funds the city previously paid for an engineering study conducted for the stormwater drainage project north of Highway 90. Sims said those funds would be used to pay Holley.

“We have contacted Senator Gainer’s office to see if he can expedite the process, but we are expecting that check any day now,” he said on July 26.

As of Tuesday, August 10, those funds had still not arrived, with City Clerk Beverly Gilley responding to a public records request filed by the Times-Advertiser by saying the fund disbursement was in a “pending” status. Gilley also confirmed the City of Bonifay postponed several monthly obligations to pay Holley in an effort to avoid the contractor stopping work on the project.

“Unfortunately, the funds from DEO were not received in time; therefore, the City paid Holley using funds received from utility payments that were budgeted to pay other items,” the Clerk stated in response to the records request. “The City of Bonifay has made every effort to ensure that Holley Development would be paid and the contract not terminated.”

Mayor Sims was not available for comment; however, he issued an email to all city staff on July 29 – just three days after Holley’s Notice to Terminate – stating all “non-essential” spending was to stop effective immediately.

“Due to budget shortfalls, specifically with city income, all non-essential spending will stop effective today until further information is reviewed and/or if recommendations need to be made to the council for action to reduce budgeted expenditures,” wrote the mayor. “This action is being taken as a precaution and as per the City Charter.

The issue was addressed when Bonifay City Council met Monday night.

“How are we going to pay bills if we used the money to pay Holley?” asked Council member Rickey Callahan. “We are two months behind on bills. Even when we get the money from all the grants, we are still short.”

Councilman Robert Urquhart states the issue stems from a lack of dissemination of information on grants to the entire council.

“We can’t be good stewards of our money if we don’t know what is coming in and what is going out,” said Urquhart.

Look for updates on this story as it continues to develop at holmescounty.news

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