PANAMA CITY — With the Jenks Avenue widening project more than a year behind schedule, Panama City officials are taking official action against AT&T who they say caused the delays.
On Friday, the city’s attorney in the case, Cliff Higby, filed an official complaint against AT&T in court. The suit alleges the telecommunications company’s failure to move its power poles in a timely manner caused more than $1 million worth of change orders.
“We feel they essentially turned a blind eye to the city’s repeated requests,” Higby said.
He added that he feels the city has a strong case.
The city will be seeking damages in the case to cover the $983,924 of expenses, Higby said during the Panama City Commission meeting on Tuesday, that can be directly attributed to AT&T.
The city will not recover attorney’s fees in the case, unless AT&T agrees to a proposed settlement that Higby said he plans to offer early in the litigation process.
At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners were forced to approve a third change order in the project, this one totaling $250,546.
“It’s giving me major heartburn,” said Commissioner Billy Rader.
The change order covered the cost of the work from March to June 2018.
Director of Public Works Neil Fravel said he anticipates the change order approved Tuesday will be the last one, though he can’t know for sure. The work, which is being done by GAC, is expected to be completed by the end of August.
“They’ve asked us for additional days because of weather,” Fravel said. “I would anticipate they are going to finish it before the end of August.”
The widening project originally was expected to be completed in June 2017 and cost $5.4 million. With the change orders, the project’s price has jumped to almost $6.46 million.
The project will take Jenks from two lanes to four lanes, with a turning lane in the middle, from 23rd Street to Baldwin Road. The hope is it will alleviate existing congestion, as well as meet the needs of the new SweetBay development along State 390.
In addition to widening the road, the project includes stormwater upgrades, curbs, gutters and sidewalks.