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Center work resumes after Thursday walkout: Contractor’s crew returns to site Monday morning

Construction of the new Jonesborough Senior Center hit a snag last week when contractor Scott Rainey walked out of the town’s weekly construction progress meeting, threatening to pull his crew if he didn’t receive a check by the end of the day.
“We are closing the job tomorrow if we don’t have payment today,” he told a surprised group that included Jonesborough’s Bob Browning, Craig Ford, J.W. Greene, Virginia Causey and Todd Wood, as well as C.W. Parker with Ken Ross Architects, who was filling in for Eddie Phillips as meeting chair.
But by Monday, May 11, crews were back at work — despite no concessions by the town, according to Town Administrator Bob Browning.
“They just want to finish the project,” Browning said. “At this point in time, we are moving forward.”
Moving forward didn’t seem as likely at the May 7 meeting when Rainey made his announcement.
The weekly meetings had been established as a way to facilitate a speedier completion of a project that had already become bogged down by financial overruns, weather delays and charges of poor contractor oversight. The first two such meetings, April 23 and April 30, progressed smoothly, as contractor, town and architects strived to keep the project on track.
Still, early in the May 7 meeting, Town Operations Manager Craig Ford once again expressed frustration with the length of time it was taking Rainey to move materials blocking work areas.
“For the last two weeks, I’ve had the same request,” Ford said. “They’re still in our way.”
At that time, Rainey admitted that he did not have funds allotted to move the material.
“At this point, Rainey Constructing has not been paid since February,” he said, gathering his materials to leave. “With that said, the owner (Jonesborough) is in breach of contract.”
This was not the first altercation for Rainey that week. On May 6, Rainey’s crew was locked out of the Northeast State Community College’s future downtown Johnson City satellite campus site.
“We should have been in (the facility) in March,” Northeast State President Janice Gilliam said. And every month brought a new delay and there were not enough workers on the job.
“There is a series of events that went on that were just not meeting our expectations,” she explained. “This is an action that we took.”
Rainey had returned to the Northeast State construction site as of Friday, May 8.
“We are just working through some challenges,” Gilliam said. “We are back on task for now.”
She stressed, however, that Rainey’s charges of not being paid by the college were incorrect.
“We have paid our bills. We have documents (showing) that we have paid,” she said.
Browning also maintains that Rainey’s charges of the town’s missed payments were inaccurate.
“I can tell you we don’t have a payment request in hand,” Browning said after the meeting. The normal procedure, he explained, is for Rainey to submit payment requests to Ken Ross Architects, the work is then inspected and the invoice is approved and sent to the town for payment.
“That way when we pay for it, we’re not paying for something that has to be redone,” he said.
Browning said he received a call from Rainey Friday expressing his desire to return to work, blaming, in part, work-related stress for the charges. A check had also just been approved for charges of a little more than $40,000 to Rainey. Browning is hopeful the town and Rainey will be able to continue to work together.
Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe agreed.
“Things seem to be going some better,” Wolfe said after Monday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting. “We remain cautiously optimistic that we may continue to see significant progress. The best possible outcome is for the contractor in place to finish the building on budget in a timely manner.”
Scott Rainey could not be reached for comment. The next Senior Center construction progress meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 14, at 9 a.m. at Town Hall.