Anna Maria settles FEMA case with construction company

The use of double contracts to understate the cost of proposed construction in Anna Maria will cost Wash Family Construction more than $56,000.

City commissioners voted 5-0 Nov. 29 to approve settlement terms with Darrin Wash, owner of the business, requiring the company to pay $49,676.65 in permit fees due to the use of double contracts and $6,600 in reimbursable expenses.

Monthly payments of $4,139.72 toward the total amount owed will be made by Wash to the city on the first of every month for a year, beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

If Wash fails to make a payment on or before the 10th of the month, the unpaid balance becomes due immediately and the hearing before the city’s Local Construction Regulation Board, according to the terms of the settlement. Wash still will be held liable for the obligations of the settlement, in addition to being subject to the LCRB’s decision.

The purpose of the LCRB is to ensure licensed contractors in the city operate under the city’s rules and code of ordinance.

Additional settlement terms include requiring Wash to release a public apology to the city, which was included in the materials provided to commissioners for the meeting, and to be shadowed by a contractor of the city’s choice on construction work in the city for a year.

The contractor to shadow Wash will have access to all financial matters and documents related to building permits and Wash will pay the fees related to the contractor’s work.

If Wash fails to pay the contractor within 20 days of a monthly invoice, a hearing before the LCRB will be scheduled and the company will be held liable to the obligations in the settlement.

Acting building official Luke Curtis, who led the city’s investigation, found 20 building permits submitted by Wash from 2012-17 totaling $2,483,832.72 in understated construction costs. Eighteen of 20 properties were subject to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 50-percent rule.

The rule applies to ground-level homes built before the introduction of the Flood Insurance Rate Map in 1975, otherwise known as pre-FIRM buildings. The rule requires projects on pre-FIRM properties exceeding 50 percent of a building value for remodeling, renovation or improvement deemed “substantial.”

When a project is deemed a “substantial” improvement, it must comply with the National Flood Program, which can result in a requirement to elevate the ground-level portion of the structure.

By reporting lower construction estimates to the city, a contractor could avoid the 50-percent rule to make more improvements to ground-level homes than should be allowed.

Wash and his attorney, Peter J. Mackey, attended the meeting Nov. 29. They did not address the commission and did not comment to The Islander.

The city’s investigation began in July, when city attorney Becky Vose learned of a legal dispute between L. Martin and Threse Quinn Hurbi and Wash Family Construction over improvements to the Martin-Hurbi property in Anna Maria. The parties are locked in a 12th Circuit Court case filed by Wash over a claim the construction company is due payment for work done to the property.

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