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Why Forsyth County settled with the construction company of controversial road projects

Forsyth County has settled with a firm that has led three controversial road projects.

Commissioners recently voted unanimously to approve a settlement agreement with Vertical Earth for a widening project on Castleberry Road and two phases of a widening project on Old Atlanta Road. The county will pay Vertical Earth a total of $1,606,709.41.

“This is a comprehensive settlement agreement that ends all matters of dispute litigation-based or otherwise between Forsyth County and Vertical Earth with respect to three transportation projects,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said at a recent work session.

According to the settlement, the three projects have been going on since 2015 and the county and Vertical Earth had numerous issues, including disagreements over utility delays, contract interpretation, weather delays, liquidated damages, material costs and level of resources dedicated to the project.

Jarrard said the total was made up of $875,000 for the completion of the projects minus $516,500 paid from the company to the county for liquidated damages.

That figure plus $1,248,209.41 which was previously due for “outstanding aggregated retainage” for the projects added up for the final total payment.

“Under Georgia law, [retainage is] amounts that we hold back legally for work performed to work as basically an incentive to get the project done,” Jarrard said. “That is an amount we would otherwise pay to them.”

The settlement also states that neither party can add future costs or take legal action due to the projects.

“[The settlement says] we are done with them with respect to those three projects and they are done with us with respect to those three projects,” Jarrard said.

As part of the settlement, Vertical Earth will also pay $3,771.32 to the county for seeding costs for the project and $723.29 related to the installation of a traffic loop.

Phases 2, Sharon Road to Nichols Road, and 3, St. Marlo Country Club Parkway to McGinnis Ferry Road, of the Old Atlanta Road projects were completed in April 2018 and May 2017, respectively.

Projects to widen the road from St. Marlo to Old Atlanta Parkway — Phase 4 — and Old Atlanta to James Burgess Road — Phase 5 —are in the right-of-way acquisition phases.