RIDGELAND — Aldermen on Tuesday rejected a claim made by a contractor regarding a work-site accident that that occurred at the site of the new City Center complex last September. 

The incident in question involved an excavator used by workers of subcontractor Birdsong Construction on Sept. 12, 2019, at the city center site at the corner ofHighway 51 and School Street.

Jason Clark with Mid State Construction, the contractor that hired Birdsong, said that an excavator hit unfavorable soil conditions and turned over. Clark appealed to the board on behalf of Mid State to grant additional compensation not covered by insurance in the amount of $50,000.

Attorney Sam Gregory from the law firm Baker Donelson represented the contractors and said that the excavator flipped due to unstable soil in a “sediment pond” on the work site. He said the heavy machine essentially drove over “a reservoir of muck” that was too soft to support it.

Birdsong President Jeff Cox said it took his work crews, using two other excavators, to dig out the machine. He said they had to dig in front of the heavy vehicle and smash the windshield to get the driver out. He added that the process took a significant amount time and resources and landed the excavator in a repair shop for three months.

He said his team was not properly notified of the nature of the site, which he said was a former dumping ground for broken concrete, which ultimately contributed to the accident.
“The excavation area did not change, the amount of material did not change, but the type of material did change,” Cox said.

He noted that in addition to the accident, his team was not ready to properly sort the cement pieces in the dirt he was excavating.

“I am not trying to nickel and dime anyone,” Cox said.

Alan Grant spoke on behalf of Dean & Dean Architects, the firm overseeing the construction, which initially denied Mid State’s claim. He brought in John Algood from Benchmark Construction, another firm the city has engaged to work on the project, who argued that Mid State knew the full nature of the site. 

Algood cited exploratory tests done as early as Aug. 20, 2019, and showed pictures of the site taken just days before the incident that he said showed visible indications that the ground may not be suitable for the heavy equipment.

That led to some contentious exchanges between Cox and the aldermen at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“In your opinion, it was safe to run a trackhoe over this,” Ward 2 Alderman Chuck Gautier asked, alluding to the photograph Algood presented.

Cox responded that he had “been driving trackhoes since (he) was eight years old.”

After a short discussion, the board voted to enter into executive session to discuss the matter. After about 20 minutes, the board reconvened and voted unanimously to uphold Dean & Dean Associates’ decision to deny the claim.

Mayor Gene F. McGee said that the City Center building is on track to be open and in use by December and is about half a million dollars under budget.