Old Jacobsen site cleanup on hold

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 24, 2008

A project to clear the site of the old Homelite Jacobsenmanufacturing building on Industrial Park Road has endedprematurely in unfulfilled contracts, property liens and potentiallawsuits, leaving Brookhaven with more than 20 acres of rubbishbehind a posted fence.

Demolition contractor Kevin Claude Davis Excavation ofMonticello has stopped work on the site and filed a $23,120 lien onthe job, property, steel and other sellable materials remainingthere after claiming that property owner Applied Principles ofHouston, Texas, wrote a bad check for the work and has so far notattempted to make good on the job.

“We’ve got papers served on them, and we’re fixing to go tocourt,” said demolition company owner Kevin Davis. “They prettymuch just up and ran out on us. It’s put me in a big bind.”

Davis’ company began tearing down the building under contractwith Applied Principles in late July so the Texas-based companycould sell the approximately 5,000 tons of steel in the buildingfor scrap. Davis said the job had a one-month timeframe fordemolition before a renegotiation was scheduled for cleanup dutiesafter Aug. 24.

Davis said he continued working past the deadline until Sept.8.

But when his second payment for the work came in the form of acheck that bounced, the job was put on hold. He said he has filedsuit over the matter, with a hearing scheduled in approximately oneweek.

“We already gave them three extra weeks,” he said. “We fulfilledour contract.”

Attempts to reach Applied Principles were unsuccessful.

While Davis’ payments have not been forthcoming, AppliedPrinciples apparently held up to its obligations before thedemolition job began.

Wingfield Auctions auctioneer Randy Wingfield, who auctioned theHomelite building to Applied Principles in late April for $450,000,said the company paid its initial 10 percent deposit and closed thedeal on time.

“Everybody fulfilled the agreement, and we considered it asuccess,” he said. “We thought they were going to clean it up andresell it for a new industry, but now I don’t know what’shappened.”

Now, Wingfield is contracted with Applied Principles to sell theproperty again, but the 21.23-acre lot is most likely destined tosit still until the company squares away its contract obligationswith Davis.

“My agreement was that they were going to clean it up and thenwe’d start to broker it, but if it’s not cleaned up, that’s adifferent situation,” Wingfield said. “We’ll probably just standback for now and wait and see what happens. I’m just on for theride.”

While Applied Principles appears to have walked away from theproject, David Shemper – the facility manager for Ben Shemper andSons in Hattiesburg, the company that was buying the Homelite scrapfrom Applied Principles – has a theory.

“Scrap prices have declined drastically over the last threemonths,” he said. “The prices we quoted them on the first drop werebelow the prices they were willing to accept for the material.”

Shemper said the scrap metal industry is in the midst of thelargest price drop ever recorded, with some grades of metal havingdropped more than $350 per ton since summer. He said the currentlow price extremes apparently put Applied Principles’ project inthe red.

Shemper said his company hauled only a minimal amount of metalfrom the site for two weeks before Applied Principles stoppedselling scrap.

“They held us up, waiting to see if prices were going to recoverand, unfortunately, they have done nothing but continue to holdup,” he said.

Attempts by The DAILY LEADER to contact Applied Principles ownerNicolette Nguyen were unsuccessful.

Others have also been unsuccessful. Davis said he has not beenable to contact her, and Wingfield said he has not spoken with hersince September.

Nguyen’s brother and project overseer, Daniel Nguyen, who castthe winning bid for the Homelite Jacobsen building in the Aprilauction, also appears to be out of touch.

Brookhaven’s Mark Stietenroth, who was hoping to buy some of thesteel trusses from the site to build a shop, said he attempted toleave voicemails on Daniel Nguyen’s phone until the inbox filled upand began refusing further messages.

Applied Principles itself appears to be hard to find.

The company’s address is listed as12218 Jones Road, Suite D-115in Houston, but a Google Maps address search does not list AppliedPrinciples as one of the 18 companies doing business from theplaza.

So while company personnel go missing and lawyers prepare toduke it out over $23,000, the city of Brookhaven is left sportingseveral massive piles of “ugly” in the heart of its industrialcommunity.

“It’s an incredible eyesore for those who travel through thepark every day, and I greatly hope the owner of the property willtake action to complete cleaning the leftover debris from thebuilding’s demolition,” said Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfield.

Aside from looking terrible, the littered lot could also workagainst local efforts to improve Lincoln County and recruit newindustries to the area – not only because of looks, but alsobecause of the idleness of a well-situated industrial location.

“If the property stays like this for many more months, it couldbe a deterrent [to industrial recruiting],” Brumfield said. “If andwhen the debris is removed, it will provide for a large site withvery close proximity to the Canadian National Railway that could bea definite asset in bringing new industry to Brookhaven. But inorder to reach that point, the demolition must be completed.”