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Contractor faces firing; city seeks extension for facade work

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Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness has had enough.

This week, he met with the state office that oversees the grant paying for a $650,000 facade renovation to eight buildings downtown. The city needs more time to get the work done, he told officials.

His next call was to the city attorney.

Her instructions are to start the paperwork needed to fire the construction company, Advanced Restoration Contractors, which hasn’t worked nearly enough to have the project finished by a March 31 deadline and only responded to the city when the mayor threatened to fire it. The state is aware the city intends to fire the contractor and is supportive, McGuinness said.

The mayor met with the contractors in mid-December and set guidelines for what he wanted to see done. Those goals were not met, which is why Franklin needs to get another crew that can complete the project, he said.

“I need to make sure the property owners get what they expected and what they deserve,” McGuinness said. “They did not hold up to what we agreed upon in the middle of December. There were three promises they made and not one of those has been substantially or successfully completed.”

While McGuinness was meeting Wednesday with the Office of Community and Rural Affairs in Indianapolis about getting more time to get the work done, employees from the construction company showed up at city hall, the mayor learned. They left before he returned, and he did not speak with anyone from the company in the afternoon, he said.

Advanced Restoration Contractors did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story on Wednesday.

None of the projects on the eight buildings has been completed. Major work to tear out and replace storefronts on six of those buildings hasn’t started, although awnings have been removed, and some painting has been finished.

Planned renovations to the Artcraft Theatre marquee haven’t been started, and brick repair work on Huddleston and Huddleston law office is only partially done.

The overall project is funded with local tax dollars, money from the businesses and $250,000 from a state grant.

The city has until March 31 to complete the project, or it risks losing the grant funds. The city is asking for more time but has received no guarantees from the state, McGuinness said.

“They would not commit that they would agree to the extension. They did not agree to do that verbally,” he said. “They need to see the modification request and better understand what it is, in writing.”

McGuinness asked city attorney Lynn Gray to start drafting the paperwork the city would need to end the contract with the Indianapolis company, which is owned by Carl Aikman Jr., according to the company’s website.

The city likely will notify the company that it is off the job, McGuinness said.

The mayor said he repeatedly has called the company throughout the winter to request they send workers to continue on the project. The mayor threatened to fire the company Jan. 20 if workers did not at least put up plastic on buildings that had been partially worked on, which they did complete by 5 p.m. that day but not to the city’s standards.

Franklin is now searching for a new contractor to finish the project. The city will be able to hire a new company and finish all of the projects within the $650,000 budgeted for the work, McGuinness said.

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