A Contractor Complains

    Keith Grimes, a Montauk contractor, unleashed a torrent of frustration about the East Hampton Town Board and other town officials at a board meeting on June 11, saying they owed him “a ton of money.” The dispute now appears to have been resolved, but not before Mr. Grimes had spoken his piece.

    The contractor had stopped a paving job on West Drive in East Hampton over discrepancies, he said, between the  specifications for the approximately $430,000 job for which he had submitted a bid, and the final specs regarding curbing and other details. Town officials claimed that certain work was expected to be included in the bid price, while Mr. Grimes said the details had been revised and there should be an additional cost.

    At the end of the meeting, Robert Guido, an attorney for several neighborhood commercial property owners, who will be taxed to pay for the work (after the town pays for it up front), offered to work with Mr. Grimes, Tom Talmage, the town engineer, and town attorneys, to resolve the issue.

    “I’ll deal with you people on a handshake,” Mr. Grimes told Mr. Guido, who is the attorney for members of the Snyder family among others. The Snyders need the roadwork to complete development of a commercial subdivision.

    Asked by Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc if the work  could continue while the dispute was being resolved, Mr. Grimes wasn’t so eager. “If East Hampton Town wasn’t a delinquent account with me,” he said.

    At another board meeting, on Tuesday, John Jilnicki, the town attorney, reported that, after meeting with the parties involved, an understanding had been reached. The town board will be asked to approve paying the contractor an additional $5,200 for work that he had not anticipated.

     “I’ve been exasperated by this process with the town,” Mr. Grimes said. “This is what I do for a living. I’m working with other municipalities. . . . There’s a definite lack of leadership in this board.”

    “I’ve been a model contractor here; I’ve rolled with all your punches.” He challenged town representatives to show him where in the contract it had detailed the type of more expensive curbing being requested. “I only have one eye. If I’m overlooking something here, put your fat finger on it here, and I’ll go do it.”

    “If I’m going to go to jail, it’s going to be for something bigger than sidewalks and curbs,” Mr. Grimes said.
    The curbs must be constructed to county standards, Mr. Talmage said, and it is there that the details have been spelled out.

    “Your whole process has broken down,” Mr. Grimes told the town board. “You’ve probably got three weeks of work to finish this,” he said. “The rate we’re moving, my kids will be lucky to finish this.”

    “The fact of the matter is, we have to increase the pace of play,” Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said.

     “The same horseshit I’m dealing with here is the same horseshit I’m dealing with on 114,” Mr. Grimes complained, referring to a drainage basin he was hired to dig over a year ago on farmland where, it turned out, development rights are owned by Suffolk County. The project was stalled after the county protested and insisted that prime agricultural soils, which had been given to Mr. Grimes as part of the deal, be returned.

    “On 114, I gave you guys multiple-choice questions four months ago. Did you all see them?” Mr. Grimes asked the board. “Everything I know about 114 is from the county, and you know what they say? They say they’re waiting for the town to engage.”

    Even though Mr. Talmage and the town attorney had a different point of view about the West Drive contract, Mr. Talmage told the board that the Grimes company, which has done numerous jobs for the town and has also worked for private residents seeking to fortify shorelines with stone armor, is “a very capable contractor. They do very good work,” he said.