St. Pete Pier demolition contractor owes money, says staffing company

A staffing CEO says the demolition contractor owes his company money.
Demolition of the old Pier, which had been scheduled to finish in February, may now be completed in late September. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times (2015)
Demolition of the old Pier, which had been scheduled to finish in February, may now be completed in late September.SCOTT KEELER | Times (2015)
Published April 6 2016
Updated April 7 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Along with being months behind schedule in demolishing the Pier, Sonny Glasbrenner Inc. is again the target of allegations that it has fallen behind paying its bills.

Rick Hermanns, CEO of Trojan Labor, a Charleston, S.C., staffing company, said Glasbrenner owes his company more than $100,000. That cost is mainly from a job at Clearwater's Morton Plant Hospital, he said.

In October, another staffing company, Harris Ventures in Georgia, sued Glasbrenner, claiming the Clearwater company had failed to pay its bills and bounced a check. The matter has since been resolved.

Hermanns said that as a St. Petersburg resident, he's upset that tax dollars are going to pay Glasbrenner's $3.2 million contract with the city. The company has been paid $1.2 million so far.

"Why am I paying money to a company that is screwing me on another job?" Hermanns said, adding that he plans to take his concerns to the City Council.

"We've been trying to collect our money," he said. "Every third week or so, they are bouncing checks to us."

Hermanns said the most recent rejected electronic payment was for $4,792.28 on March 22.

Pate Clements, Glasbrenner's president, responded to questions about Hermanns in a similar fashion when asked last year about Harris Ventures.

"Unfortunately, this is part of the process of doing business today," Clements said. "This will be cleared up eventually as well, just like the last one."

Meanwhile, demolition of the old Pier, which had been scheduled to be complete in February, continues. Michael Ryle, the city's assistant engineering director, said "substantial completion" is now expected in late September.

That might be cutting it close, since construction of the new pier could begin as early as October, according to Chuck Jablon, operations vice president for Skanska USA, the project's construction manager.

Glasbrenner finished demolishing the inverted pyramid — the city's iconic pier building for more than 40 years — last fall. The firm, though, is still working on removing the deck on which it sat.

Financial issues have not delayed the project, Clements said.

"I have plenty of manpower and plenty of equipment," he said. "There is nothing wrong with the pier job, but in order to do it safely, this is the only way to do it."

In an email, Ryle said the project has been more time consuming than anticipated because of safety concerns.

"Since the pier head has been reconstructed and modified three times over its life and some areas are significantly deteriorated, demolition has been slower and more deliberate for the safety of the contractor," he said.

Ryle said payments on Glasbrenner's contract are made based on work completed monthly, with a 20-day delay in payment. The city also withholds 10 percent of the money paid on the contract.

"At this time, we are holding $120,000. This will increase each month up to 10 percent of $3.2 million," Ryle said.

He added that no staffing company or subcontractor has complained to the city about delinquent payments and that he doesn't have concerns about Glasbrenner's ability to hire staff for the job.

About eight to 10 people work on the project each day, Ryle said.

"The manpower is limited based on available space to operate equipment and stockpile debris," he said.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this article. Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes