Man involved in constructing storage building refutes allegations

By Jenni Vincent
Staff Writer
Posted 6/13/07

Editor’s note: This is the second week in a series examining the Belforest Water System.

Next Wednesday’s articles will feature an interview with former board president Tommy Mitchell and a look at costs for the controversial new storage …

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Man involved in constructing storage building refutes allegations

Posted

Editor’s note: This is the second week in a series examining the Belforest Water System.

Next Wednesday’s articles will feature an interview with former board president Tommy Mitchell and a look at costs for the controversial new storage building.

DAPHNE — A man directly connected to the now-controversial construction of a new Belforest Water System building said he has nothing to hide.

But he is wondering why it took water board members so long to question this work.

Ray Simmons, who did the construction work last year on the new building located off Baldwin County 54 west, said he didn’t know there were any questions about the project — until recently.

At that time, he was asked — and agreed — to reimburse Belforest $4,347.65 for alleged purchase improprieties and missing construction items.

Although Simmons met their deadline, he said he’d paid the requested amount to put an end to the allegations — not because he had done anything wrong.

Simmons performed the work under his business name, Busy Man’s Helping Hand.

It wasn’t the first time he’d worked for Belforest, Simmons said. Other prior projects included yard work and other types of construction, he said.

“I just did the work on these projects; I never was in charge of any thing but doing the work. And the same was true for the new building,” Simmons said.

Very little was “set in stone” when it came to the new building, he said.

“They didn’t even have any plans. Tommy (Mitchell) had a little drawing of what he wanted, but other than that, that was their set of plans,” Simmons said.

He said no contract, job description or rate of pay were provided for the proposal.

“It was just like, let’s build this building — so do it,” Simmons said.

Questions about questionable building materials should be directed to Mitchell, he said.

“On the materials, on the first go-around, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to build so I told Tommy to give me a list of stuff to go buy and that’s what I did,” Simmons said.

Simmons said he understood that he was to report to Mitchell.

“And that’s what I did. I didn’t talk to any one in the office, except for maybe the secretary once or twice. As for the rest of them, nobody took any interest.

“Basically, the board members told Tommy to handle it,” Simmons said. “So I was just doing the labor part and picking up materials, whatever they wanted done.”

Hand-written statements of work that had been done were also prepared but he didn’t keep copies of them, Simmons said.

Water board president Frances Rigsby has questioned why Simmons was paid thousands of dollars with “little or no documentation” of his work.

Those checks were primarily signed by Mitchell and board secretary/treasurer Tom Whitacre, records show.