NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The state says work on the brand-new University Medical Center site is scheduled to be completed soon, but several sub-contractors tell FOX 8 they haven't been paid in months.
Every inch of every sign you see on or around the UMC site in Mid-City was fabricated at Brightway Signs in Hahnville.
"We're a small business. We competed with companies nationally. I mean, they had companies from Texas to California that all competed for this work, and we were awarded the work," Fray Gray Jr. said.
Gray, who is president of the company, said when Brightway started work on the UMC contract for hundreds of exterior signs more than a year ago, it was exciting. That's not the case anymore.
"It's to the point right now that it's damaging the business," Gray said.
Gray said Brightway hasn't been paid in months.
"We're in March now, so 90 days. We got the November check in late January," Gray said.
So far, he hasn't been paid for December, January or February. While dealing with this, Gray said he's had to foot the bill to pay his employees.
"These guys have families," he said. "They have bills to pay at home. I've got to pay my employees. They work overtime on this project. I gotta pay them overtime when payroll comes around. I've never had anything close to a missed payroll."
Gray said for four months he's had five or six people working to put concrete foundations in for most of the larger signs. He says he's to a point where this threatens the future of the business his father built in the early 70s, and it has hurt his relationship with longtime vendors.
"When I don't get paid, I can't pay my suppliers," Gray said. "Then I got suppliers calling me – 'when am I getting paid?'"
Brightway Signs isn't alone in this situation. At least two other subcontractors tell FOX 8 they haven't been paid in months, either. Gray said one thing stopped him from walking off the job. He said contacts at Skanska Mapp, the company overseeing the project, told him complete the work or face liquid damages.
"The only answer I get is we've not gotten payment from the owner," Gray said. In this case, the owner is the state of Louisiana.
Our calls to Skanska Mapp Construction weren't returned. The state's division of administration tells FOX 8 that Skanska Mapp entered into what's called a "construction manager at risk" contract.
"It requires Skanska Mapp to coordinate all subcontractor work and resolve any disputes that arise," said Meghan Parrish with the Division of Administration.
The division also says subcontractors have filed $59 million in liens against Skanska Mapp for work already performed, and for additional work. Because that amount is more than what the state has left to cover construction costs, the state says it can't pay the construction manager. The state says Skanska Mapp is working to clear the liens.
The problem is - no one knows how long that could take. Gray is afraid it's hurt the health of his family-owned business.
"It's something that worries me, worries my family. My wife and I talk about this a lot. She's really concerned," Gray said.
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