On Wednesday, Bay County Judge William Henry granted Wewahitchka’s motion to quash in a lawsuit between the city and the former contractor for their new firehouse – Winterfell Construction Inc.
The agreed order states that Winterfell, who mistakenly served Port St. Joe City Manager Jim Anderson in April, will have to re-serve their complaint to the city to proceed with their lawsuit over the termination of the firehouse contract.
“The City of Wewahitchka’s Motion to Quash Service of Process is granted as to the City of Wewahitchka,” Henry’s order reads. “(The) plaintiff’s complaint shall be properly served upon the City of Wewahitchka pursuant to section 48.111 of the Florida Statute.”
“It is further ordered that the plaintiff, if it files an amended complaint naming the City of Wewahitchka as a party, must serve the same in accordance with the provisions of section 48.111 of the Florida Statute.”
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The lawsuit came months after the city terminated their contract with the construction company over concerns regarding the quality and pace of the firehouse’s construction.
The city particularly cited concerns with the quality of the building’s siding and roof installation and the building’s concrete slab.
In the complaint, Winterfell claims Wewahitchka breached the contract, citing arguments that city processes significantly slowed or hindered the progress of the firehouse project and that Winterfell feels the contract was wrongfully terminated. The company is suing for damages, costs and other relief.
“The city and its representatives continually interrupted the subject project by instructing Winterfell to perform outside of the terms and conditions in the contract,” reads the complaint.
The construction company went on to allege that the city failed to sign necessary change orders in a timely manner, if at all, and that the city’s concerns over defective workmanship “would not prohibit the completion of the project.”
The city’s initial motion to quash or dismiss Winterfell’s lawsuit came in the weeks following the construction company’s improper service of Anderson, who was not involved in the firehouse project.
“The Plaintiff improperly served its complaint first upon the City of Port St. Joe City Manager, Jim Anderson,” the city’s motion reads. “The same summons was then used to serve the City of Wewahitchka city manager, Michael Gortman.”
“The service was improperly made on a City of Wewahitchka staff member, contrary to law,” it continues. “Florida Statute section 48.111 provides that service has to be made on the mayor or, in his absence, one of the officials listed or enumerated in the section.”
An emailed copy of the complaint was sent to Wewahitchka’s attorney, Michelle Jordan, in the days following the service of Anderson. However, the City contested that based on precedent, this does not constitute proper service.
“That Defendant declined to waive service when Plaintiff’s counsel emailed a copy of the complaint to the City Attorney is not justification to excuse improper service,” the motion reads.
At the most recent city meeting, Wewahitchka Mayor Philip Gaskin stated that construction processes with the firehouse were moving forward, though he said he could not disclose more details.
The city was able to obtain an extension for the project, which previously needed to be completed by April in order to receive funding from FEMA.