CHESTERFIELD, N.H. -- Subcontractors who worked on the new state liquor store on Route 9 say they are still waiting to receive much of the money they are owed and their businesses cannot survive without it.
Eight subcontractors, including three based in Cheshire County, have reportedly filed claims seeking more than $400,000 against the project's general contractor, Beloin Construction, Inc., of Rochester, months after submitting requisitions for the payments. People associated with Beloin, however, refute some of these claims.
Since New Hampshire is one of 18 states in the country in which the government directly controls the distribution and regulation of alcohol, the state hired Beloin and is responsible for paying the company.
Michael P. Connor, deputy commissioner of the N.H. Department of Administrative Services, said this week that the agency is aware of the situation involving the new liquor store and is working to resolve the problem. He said any rumor that the state is not paying Beloin is false, adding that a check for $184,000 was sent on Friday, July 5. He said, however, it is possible the amount of non-payment claims can become so overwhelming that it forces the state to stop dispensing money to a general contractor.
Dennis K. Amer, president of Amer Electric in Keene, told the Reformer his company did all the electrical work on the new liquor store and is still owed $127,586 of the roughly $290,000 it was supposed to receive.
Amer said his family-owned business, which was started in 1988, was hired in October for the project that was supposed to be completed by Thanksgiving. He said there were then delays by the state regarding land easements and the store's opening was moved to December. But that didn't happen either and the store did not open until January.
Amer explained that subcontractors sent requisitions for money to the state on the 25th day of every month. He said the state, once Beloin submits a total bill, has 30 days to review it and 30 days to dispense the money.
"That went fairly good the first couple of months but in January we sent a requisition for $50,000 and then January, February, March and it was mid-April before we received the January payment," he said, adding that he has not received February's payment of between $70,000 and $80,000. "I called and didn't get any answers."
Amer said he contacted officials at the state level and they said there have been some issues with Beloin.
In addition to Amer Electric, there are seven other companies involved with the liquor store now waiting for money, according to documents from N.H. Department of Administrative Services. They are Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing ($97,123.31), Veterans Construction ($49,170.15), Chris's Drywall, Inc. ($3,411.90), Hampshire Fire Protection ($6,953.84), W.R. Painting Inc. ($34,603.97), Mas-Con Corp. ($15,127.30) and Cheshire Glass ($70,554). The total comes out to $404,531.06.
But Jennifer R. Beloin Gagne, the company's vice president, said this list has many inaccuracies. For example, she said, Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing is not owed any money, and there are no claims filed against her company. She also disputes Connor's claim that Beloin owes New Hampshire $161,600 in damages because the store was not finished by Jan. 6, like it was supposed to be. She told the Reformer she received signed change orders for each time completion was delayed.
Beloin's attorney, Bruce Marshall, said reports in other newspapers are inaccurate. He said the company does not owe a penny to the state. In fact, he said the state still owes his client "a lot of money" after not making payments when they were due.
Nevertheless, people with Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing and Chris's Drywall, Inc. say their companies still do not have all the money they earned.
Andrew S. Davis, administrator of real estate and leasing for the N.H. Liquor Commission, explained that whenever the state receives a requisition for payment, a clerk of the works goes to the job site to check out the scope of the work before signing off on it. Davis said the contract is very strict that the state must then send the money to the general contractor.
"We have dispersed all the monies we were able to contractually to Beloin," he told the Reformer this week. "What the general contractor does beyond that point, we are not privy to."
Amer said, per state law, performance and payment bonds were purchased to act as insurance policies of sorts. This, he said, makes the whole situation even more strange.
"These economic times are terrible for construction companies," said Amer, suggesting that all contractors should be wary when dealing with the state government. "(This situation) has really crippled a lot of good subcontractors. If I had just been starting out or if I was a smaller contractor, I'd be dead now. It's not right and I'm going to do everything I can do change this."
He said he has been in contact with New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster and State Sen. Molly Kelly, D-District 10, who Amer said might introduce some legislation aimed at protecting subcontractors from situations like this one.
Kelly said while legislation is always an option, there are many different ways to resolve this problem. She said she has been in communication with all parties involved and more research is needed.
"We have to see how we can move forward," she said.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.