Contractor: Levee engineer stops work, claims bills aren’t being paid by Williamsport

An economic development contractor with the city claims a company working on the levee recertification has stopped work due to non-payment of bills it submitted.

Wood, which is the full name of the firm, was hired on March 1 by City Council. It is working under a contract not to exceed $67,950.

Designing relief wells and providing valuable engineering updates as part of a systemwide improvement framework plan with a deadline of February for information to get to the Army Corps of Engineers, is part of the scope of work in the contract obtained by the Sun-Gazette.

“Wood has not being paid and stopped work about a week ago,” said Jason Fitzgerald, president of Penn Strategies Inc., the city economic development consulting firm.

Wood hasn’t been paid in months, he said.

The most recent invoices were submitted 10 days ago.

“We will be preparing a statement,” said Ghazoll Motlagh, water resources engineer, project manager for Environment and Infrastructure Solutions with Wood.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said he was not aware of the non-payments.

“If they have not been paid, this is unsatisfactory and I will address it,” Campana said.

William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director, also said he was not informed about the non-payments. “It may simply be the funding source has not been identified,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”

“My understanding is that, because of some changeovers in personnel, the finance department has been trying to sort out precisely which funding stream we need to use to pay the most recent round of expenses from Wood,” said Councilwoman Liz Miele, committee chairwoman.

Miele also said she was informed the checks were to be put in the mail.

The levee recertification project, estimated to cost $13.6 million to $15.8 million to repair and meet federal government standards, is needed so the city residents don’t have to pay for flood insurance.

“This is the first bill they should pay,” Fitzgerald, a team member trying to obtain funding for the recertification, said. “The number one priority of a municipal government is to keep its people safe and there is no more important project related to public safety than the levee recertification. I hope that this matter is resolved immediately and so should all taxpayers.”