While the Belleville City Hall renovation wrapped up in October and police officers moved into their new headquarters in 2016, the St. Louis architectural firm that worked on the $20.6 million project says the city still owes the company about $90,000 for its design work.
The Lawrence Group has received about $1.35 million so far from Belleville, according to Laura Conrad, the chief financial officer for the company. But Conrad said the company continues to seek $90,000 from Belleville.
John Smith, a preconstruction manager and conceptual estimator for the Lawrence Group, addressed Mayor Mark Eckert and the aldermen during a Belleville City Council meeting Tuesday and noted that the latest city newsletter listed “integrity” as a word of the month for January.
“It seems like the integrity of the city is being discussed here in the words of the month and yet the city is not paying the contractor … for work done and has not been paid since May of 2017,” Smith told the council. “I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’d want to continue to work and do my job if I’m not paid for seven months.”
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I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’d want to continue to work and do my job if I’m not paid for seven months.
John Smith of the Lawrence Group
Eckert told Smith that the issue has been referred to City Attorney Garrett Hoerner, who was not at the council meeting and could not be reached for comment.
“I can assure you Mr. Hoerner will be in touch with the president of the firm trying to resolve these issues,” Eckert said. “But as you know, there’s two sides to every story but this is a situation that we … hopefully can avoid litigation. We’re not avoiding any payments intentionally, we’re trying to just work these details out.”
Eckert did not release information about why the money has not been paid.
Conrad said the Lawrence Group has submitted the proper documentation for payment. She said the company had a contract for about $1.5 million to do design work for the new Belleville Police Department headquarters at 720 W. Main St., for the parking garage built next to the station and for the renovation of City Hall at 101 S. Illinois St.
We’re not avoiding any payments intentionally, we’re trying to just work these details out.
Mayor Mark Eckert
Conrad said the Lawrence Group had billed the city last year for about $110,000 in work but agreed to take $20,000 off that amount because of questions raised by the city about the type of window shades initially installed at the police headquarters. This would leave the remaining balance owed at about $90,000.
“We conceded that we would pay for the shades, about a $20,000 expense,” Conrad said.
Conrad said the Lawrence Group had specified a type of shade for the police building and those shades were installed. But she said the city wanted thicker shades and then directed the contractor, Impact Strategies of Fairview Heights, to install another type.
The City Hall project originally was expected to be finished in early 2017 but it was not completed until September. City Hall was closed during the renovation and City Council meetings were convened at Lindenwood University-Belleville.
Eckert has said the delays were partly caused when an architect who started design work on the City Hall project had left the Lawrence Group but Conrad denied that this person’s departure from the company caused a delay in the renovations.
The City Hall renovations were needed to make City Hall compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and remove asbestos from the building that opened in the late 1950s, city leaders have said. Other work included a new roof and new boiler.
The police department took over the former Bank of Belleville building at 720 W. Main St. and the bank reopened in a new building at 215 S. Illinois St.