With 10 years of legal interest, Gonzales’ $51,200 bill rises to $84,000

A court ruling in a 10-year-old lawsuit brought against Gonzales by a construction company added a decade’s worth of legal interest to the $51,200 the city owed, ballooning the bill to $84,000.

The city paid the judgment last week after the March 11 ruling by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge.

In 2004, the city, under the administration of then-Mayor Johnny Berthelot , awarded Quality Design and Construction of Sorrento the bid, at approximately $407,000, to build the water spray playground and parking area at Jambalaya Park.

Differences later arose between the city and the construction company over whether the work on the playground had been completed.

In the summer 2004, QDC sued Gonzales for the balance of more than $50,000 on the playground work, a move that set off 10 years of legal maneuvering.

The decision this month by the 1st Circuit came after both parties appealed a Jan. 3, 2013, decision by the 23rd Judicial District Court in Ascension Parish, ordering the city to pay the $51,200 balance.

The city appealed that judgment, asserting, in part, that the funds budgeted for the project were thoroughly exhausted through payments to Quality Design as well as payments to subsequent contractors and suppliers hired to correct or complete QDC’s work.

Quality Design appealed the same judgment for a different reason: It hadn’t included an order compelling the city to pay interest on the amount owed.

The 1st Circuit Court ruled in favor of the construction company, ordering the city to pay the contract balance of $51,200 plus interest from July 30, 2004.

Thus the approximately $84,000 judgment the city paid last week.

Mayor Barney Arceneaux, who took office in 2009, said that early in his term as mayor, the city tried unsuccessfully to reach a settlement with QDC.

City Attorney Ryland Percy said the city still has outstanding claims against QDC for reimbursement of warranty claims for corrective work done on the spray playground.

“Whether the city decides to pursue it is a decision for another day,” Percy said.

Scott Frazier, an attorney for QDC, said the ruling by the 1st Circuit is “good for the construction industry as a whole.”